On a recent trip through security in Philadelphia International’s US Airways terminal, I noticed three lines at play: regular passengers, “Preferred Access,” and “TSA-Approved.”
The regular line was long and twisted, with anxious passengers making eye contact with one another, shaking their heads, and inching slowly toward two agents checking IDs as fast as they could.
The Preferred Access line was reserved for passengers who had paid a fee to go through security more quickly. Although this line was shorter, there was only one agent checking IDs, so it was not moving any faster than the regular line.
The TSA-Approved line, on the other hand, only had an occasional passenger and the agent was idle most of the time.
This is a classic example of an unsynchronized flow, in which you have bottlenecks in some areas of your operations but idle capacity in others. Does this dynamic exist in your company’s operations? Lack of proper flow results in reduced operational efficiencies and lower customer satisfaction levels. Luckily, achieving a more synchronized flow is usually not difficult to achieve.
Take our airport scenario above as an example. The passengers who paid the extra fee for Preferred Access in order to be checked more quickly soon realized they were not getting much value from their purchase. The line was working at a fraction of its capacity, thanks to being staffed by a single agent.
Since the Preferred Access and TSA-Approved lines were in close proximity, a simple business rule change to allow the TSA-Approved agent to check passengers in the Preferred Access line during idle times would have had a drastic positive impact on processing speed while leveraging existing available operational capacity.
As a matter of fact, on my return flight to Philadelphia from Atlanta, this was the exact operational protocol at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport!
When was the last time you examined key operational processes in your organization to identify potential bottlenecks? Have you asked your customers about the challenges they face when dealing with your customer-facing team? Have you solicited suggestions from your operational team members on how they could better serve clients? These are all valuable sources of input when looking for ways to improve your operational efficiency and customer service delivery.
How do you determine whether your business has operational bottlenecks? Share in the comments.