Can TSA security pat-downs be a POSITIVE experience?


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Ok, some of you read the headline and probably have the wrong impression of what I meant by a TSA “pat-down” being a “positive” experience!

I’m simply asking if service providers can make an otherwise negative experience into something better than negative.

Whether it is a security screener, phlebotemist, a doctor sharing unwanted results, or someone on you staff having to let a customer know they can’t meet the customer’s need, all business can’t be happy business.

When dealing with difficult situations and the resulting conflictual interactions that those situations create with customers, it is increasingly important to hire people with a high capacity for kindness and empathy. Beyond hiring for service talent, customer service training is imperative in the “unpleasantness” of human transaction. Staff need to know how to ask permission and not simply make demands.  They also must be versed on  ”listening to defuse frustration”, and the “use of a calm and compassionate voice.”  After confronting 50 angry customers, staff have to learn how to “refresh” so that the next customer is not approached as it they were one of the angry predecessors.

I am not sure how much the TSA hires for service talent or how much they train to respect the dignity of all they serve and I am not here to pass judgment in those areas (travelers, politicians, and the media will take care of that I am sure).

I do know that if I ran the TSA (and I am not asking for that job), I would view the “how” of service being as important as the “how” of safety!

What do you think, are their “security pat-down” aspects to your business?

What can you be doing to make sure your “most service oriented” people are positioned in those areas?

What training can you provide to help turn the catastrophic experiences into, at worst, neutral ones?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Michelli, Ph.D.
Joseph Michelli, Ph.D., an organizational consultant and the chief experience officer of The Michelli Experience, authored The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and the best-selling The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary.


  1. This is a great perspective and challenge! I’m sure there are “security pat-down” aspects of almost all businesses. Thank you for helping us think outside the box!


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