TSA 2021 CX Profile

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Airport Security Screening and Passenger Support Services

Transportation Security Administration, Department of Homeland Security

Every year, the Transportation Security Administration interacts with millions of travelers passing through airports and other transportation hubs. Even with the slowdown in travel caused by the coronavirus pandemic, in fiscal year 2020 the TSA screened more than 450 million travelers.  

Customers appreciate the general travel information and answers to their questions that TSA provides over social media using its #AskTSA accounts. Customer satisfaction with the agency’s website has also increased in recent years. The agency has improved the clarity of information on the site, although many customers still call the agency’s contact center to confirm information. Despite TSA’s ongoing outreach and communication initiatives, some customers are still confused by aspects of the TSA screening process, an issue we also noted last year. In fiscal year 2020, TSA’s customer service branch worked to provide TSA officers with training to help address this customer concern.  

Service Overview

Primary customers

Passengers of many modes of transportation within the United States, with air travelers making up the majority.

Key services related to security screening and passenger support (all data for fiscal year 2020)

  • Security screenings at U.S. airports. 
    • 453.6 million passengers and crew members screened. (Down from 813.3 million in 2019 due to COVID-19)
  • Information about policies and procedures for traveling and preparing for checkpoint screenings. 
  • Enrollment and application processing for TSA PreCheck™
    • 1,178,488 new enrollments.
    • 776,844 renewals.
  • Assistance during the security screening process—through the TSA Cares program— for passengers with disabilities, medical conditions or other special circumstances. 
    • 15,328 requests for assistance.
  • Clarification related to watchlist names to prevent confusion about and misidentification of travelers through the Department of Homeland Security Traveler Redress Inquiry Program. 
    • 11,739 applications reviewed.

Service Snapshot (data for fiscal year 2020)

  • 966,570 calls to TSA’s customer service line.
    • Average wait time: 12 seconds.
  • 81,387 emails received by the contact center.
  • Over 44 million visits to TSA.gov.
  • 672,645 queries received by the AskTSA team.
    • Average wait time to receive an answer from AskTSA: 2 minutes.

Data Highlights

of customers were “very satisfied” with #AskTSA social media accounts in fiscal year 2020.

of passengers surveyed in 2019 said that TSA officers did not clearly explain the reasons for additional screening. 


Customer Experience Insights

Improvement from last year

Room for improvement

People appreciate answers to their questions and general travel guidance from TSA on social media.

TSA uses multiple social media platforms to share information with customers about screening procedures and to respond to travelers’ inquiries. In addition to responding to individual questions, the agency aggregates the questions and comments received over social media to identify trends and themes. This analysis helps the agency decide what kind of information to proactively post to ensure customer questions are being addressed. TSA also uses this analysis to update the agency’s website based on common customer questions and needs.

For example, the agency noticed that many of the questions asked on social media in 2020 were about very basic travel procedures and were likely coming from people who had not traveled for a long time and were therefore unfamiliar with TSA processes. Based on this trend, the agency developed a social media campaign for new travelers focusing on the most basic information so that people who had little familiarity with TSA could understand what to expect when they got to an airport.

  • Customer satisfaction rate for AskTSA social media accounts in fiscal year 2020: 95% “very satisfied.”

 

Engaging customers with social media

With 95% of customers in fiscal 2020 “very satisfied,” TSA’s social media accounts are some of the highest rated in government. Agency officials noted that the goal is to “meet customers where they are,” and convey the information that TSA wants to share—such as reminders about items prohibited from air travel—in a way that is relatable and engaging. For example, the agency often shares pictures of prohibited items found during screenings with captions that include jokes or reference other social media trends. TSA social media accounts have above average engagement rates, indicating that customers are interested in the content, and agency officials note that this engagement benefits the agency’s mission. Field staff have reported that fewer prohibited items have been found in baggage since AskTSA began sharing these photos.

Some travelers would like clearer communication from TSA officers about aspects of the screening process.

TSA may select travelers for additional screening for a variety of reasons; for example, random selection by the screening technology or they have the same name as someone on a list of known or suspected terrorists. When passengers are selected for additional screening, officers provide an overview of the general purpose of additional screening and what the process will entail. However, travelers do not always understand this overview and can become confused or frustrated that officers have not effectively explained the additional screening process.

  • 21% of passengers stated that TSA officers did not clearly explain the reasons for additional screening, according to a 2019 TSA survey.1 (TSA was not able to conduct this survey in 2020 due to the pandemic.)

In 2020, TSA took advantage of the slowdown in travel caused by the pandemic to conduct additional training sessions for officers on how to communicate with customers during the screening process. These training sessions emphasized the importance of using plain language, rather than TSA acronyms or technical terms, when explaining the screening process to customers. Beyond conducting these training sessions for current officers, the agency’s customer service branch also partnered with TSA’s Training and Development Office to ensure these plain language principles were included in the training all new officers receive.

Due to the pandemic, TSA has not yet been able to survey customers to measure whether these training sessions have improved communication and decreased confusion about additional screening, but it plans to do so in the future.

Customer satisfaction with content on TSA.gov has improved since 2016,2 but many customers still call to confirm information with the TSA contact center.

Satisfaction with TSA.gov has significantly improved since 2016, but agency officials acknowledged that many customers still feel more comfortable getting information by calling the TSA contact center. Agency customer research has shown that many customers first find information on TSA.gov, and then call the contact center to confirm that they have interpreted the online information correctly.

In addition to continuing work to improve the clarity of information available on TSA.gov, the agency is also looking at other ways to address customers’ preference for confirming details. For example, TSA is looking to add a chat feature to TSA.gov that would enable customers to ask contact center representatives questions they have about online information directly through the website. The agency hopes this will help address customers’ questions and enable the agency to connect directly with more customers while reducing demand on the call center.

Delivering Airport Screening Services Equitably

The TSA’s mission of protecting the nation's transportation systems and ensuring safety for all passengers is at times in conflict with equity. As highlighted in our TSA profile both this year and last, the administration’s additional security screenings of select passengers have been regularly questioned by the public.

Balancing the priorities of safety and equity is challenging, especially in the fast-paced environment of America’s transportation hubs, but the TSA is working to address both of these critical needs. During an interview with the Partnership, representatives of TSA shared that the administration is considering alterations to additional screening procedures, including offering the option of going through the initial screening again, further communication with customers and potentially moving to touchless screening once the technology required for this becomes available.

Transgender people have been sharing particularly negative feedback about their interactions with the TSA ever since the administration’s establishment in 2001. Transgender travelers report “feeling humiliated” and being traumatized by the process of screening, as they often get flagged by body scanners designed for binary gender identification and are mistreated by security officers. The TSA is aware of the issues this population is facing and is willing to address them. At this time, TSA is evaluating gender-neutral algorithms for Advanced Imaging Technology so a TSA officer would not have to choose a gender when screening a traveler. TSA continues to provide education to their workforce for appropriate communication with transgender/gender-diverse travelers. TSA collaborates with multiple LGBTQIA+ organizations, including the National Center for Transgender Equality, to develop training tools for their workforce and to engage with the agency’s leadership on an ongoing basis.

To advance equity in its overall services, the TSA has been engaging with multicultural and disability coalition groups on a monthly basis and receiving advice from them on specific issues. Some of the organizations the TSA collaborates with include Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, United Spinal Cord Association, National Association of the Deaf, American Diabetes Association, United Ostomy Association of America, Human Rights Campaign, Sikh Coalition, Zakat Foundation of America, NAACP, and others.

Leading Customer Experience Practices

The Partnership and Accenture developed the following list of practices to understand how agencies prioritize the customer experience, and steps they can take to improve. The list is based on research about effective customer experience practices in both government and the private sector, and aligns with practices in a customer experience maturity self-assessment for agencies developed by the Office of Management and Budget. 

Organizational Commitment

Organizational Commitment

A strong commitment and plan from agency leaders to prioritize customer experience is essential for sustained progress.

The agency:

1. Includes high-quality customer experience in its strategic goals.   

No

The agency’s current strategic plan does not include a goal related to customer experience. 

2. Specifies customer feedback as a key measure of the organization’s performance.

3. Has a senior executive with the responsibility and authority to lead efforts to improve the customer experience across the organization.

No

However, TSA has a customer service branch manager who oversees the agency’s customer service branch comprised of seven employees who lead customer experience improvements across the agency. The branch supports nearly 200 customer support managers dedicated to customer service at each airport across the country. 

Ease of Customer Interactions

Ease of Customer Interactions

Interactions with the federal government should be easy, transparent and designed around user needs.

For the most common services provided, customers can:

1. Complete common transactions using the service delivery channel of their choice.  

Partially

Customers can ask questions about what items are permitted on airplanes and apply for TSA PreCheck™ and the DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry Program online and over the phone. For security purposes, the TSA PreCheck™ application process requires an in-person appointment. TSA PreCheck™ renewals do not require an in-person appointment and can be completed online.

2. Obtain status updates through online self-service. 

Yes

For example, customers can get status updates on their TSA PreCheck™  applications and check the status of their redress complaints.

3. Receive a response to feedback or answers to questions over social media.

Yes

TSA responds regularly to mentions and replies on both @TSA and @AskTSA on Twitter, Facebook and to comments on Instagram.  

4. Access online information and support in languages other than English.

Listening to Customers and Acting on Feedback

Listening to Customers and Acting on Feedback

To understand and prioritize customer needs, agencies should collect, publish, analyze and act on feedback.

The agency:

1. Collects meaningful customer experience data across interactions and service delivery channels and shares it with the public.

Yes

TSA publishes data about website and contact center satisfaction, and has resolved Paperwork Reduction Act limitations so that it will be able to publish data from future surveys about satisfaction with airport security screenings.

2. Collects and analyzes first-hand customer feedback to understand customers’ experiences, based on their own words.

3. Aggregates and analyzes customer feedback across channels and programs, and shares feedback with relevant staff members so they can act on it.

Yes

TSA’s customer service branch regularly collects and analyzes customer feedback and shares it with relevant agency components at headquarters and in the field so they can act on it.

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Footnotes and Methodology

Footnote

  1. TSA Customer Experience Action Plan, June 2019. 
  2. Data from an analysis of TSA website metrics. Scores represent totals for the year aggregated from monthly reports.    

Customer experience indicators methodology

The Partnership and Accenture developed the following list of practices to understand how agencies prioritize the customer experience, and steps they can take to improve. The list is based on research about effective customer experience practices in government and the private sector, and aligns with practices in a customer experience maturity self-assessment for agencies developed by the Office of Management and Budget.

Organizational Commitment

A strong commitment and plan from agency leaders to prioritize customer experience is essential for sustained progress.

The agency:

  1. Includes high-quality customer experience in its strategic goals.
    • Criteria: a) customer experience with the agency’s services is listed in the strategic plan as one of the organization’s top priorities, or a supporting goal of one of the priorities b) the strategic plan provides specific actions the agency will take to improve customer experience 
  2. Specifies customer feedback as a key measure of the organization’s performance.
    • Criteria: There is a performance measure included in the agency’s strategic plan, annual performance report or agency priority goals that is based on feedback directly from customers. 
  3. Has a senior executive with the responsibility and authority to lead efforts to improve the customer experience across the organization.
    • Criteria: Based on a review of the agency’s organizational chart and online descriptions of leadership positions, the agency has an executive who meets the following criteria: a) customer experience is that executive’s primary responsibility b) the executive reports to the head of the organization or a deputy c) the executive’s work spans all major service delivery channels (e.g., online services, contact centers, face-to-face services).

Ease of Customer Interactions

Interactions with the federal government should be easy, transparent and designed around user needs.

For the most common services provided, customers can:

  1. Complete common transactions using the service delivery channel of their choice.
    • Criteria: Based on a review of the agency’s website, customers have multiple options to complete common transactions including going online, calling, using webchat and visiting field offices or other physical locations. 
  2. Obtain status updates through online self-service.
    • Criteria: customers can get real-time updates through an online self-service channel that provides estimated timelines.
  3. Receive a response to feedback or answers to questions over social media.
    • Criteria: Does the agency respond to questions through the direct message feature on Facebook and Twitter, or in the comment section of posts? To assess this, we examined social media posts on the service’s primary account across a three-month period. “No” indicates the agency never or rarely responds to comments; “partially” indicates the agency responds sometimes, but not consistently; and “yes” indicates the agency responds to comments on a frequent and consistent basis.
  4. Access online information and support in languages other than English.
    • Criteria: “No” indicates content is available only in English and translation features are not available on the website; “partially” indicates that some content or services are available in English and Spanish; “yes” indicates that content or services are available in English and Spanish and additional languages.

Listening to Customers and Acting on Feedback

To understand and prioritize customer needs, agencies should collect, publish, analyze and act on feedback.

The agency:

  1. Collects meaningful customer experience data across interactions and service delivery channels and shares it with the public.
    • Criteria: In alignment with the Office of Management and Budget’s guidance on customer experience measurement, the agency shares customer feedback with the public and that: a) represents multiple service delivery channels b) provides details into different aspects of the experience (i.e., beyond overall customer satisfaction)
  2. Collects and analyzes first-hand customer feedback to understand customers’ experiences, based on their own words.
    • Criteria: In alignment with Office of Management and Budget’s guidance on customer experience measurement, in customer or user research such as interviews, focus groups, surveys and other feedback mechanisms, customers can describe their experiences in their own words, and the agency has automated analytic capabilities to identify and act on insights that emerge from customer feedback data.
  3. Aggregates and analyzes customer feedback across channels and programs, and shares feedback with relevant staff members so they can act on it.
    • Criteria: Agency has an automated system to collect feedback across multiple channels and programs into a centralized location, analyze it for insights, and share those insights with relevant agency business owners or other appropriate colleagues responsible for taking action. The agency also tracks the impact of actions taken in response to customer feedback.

This customer experience profile was produced in collaboration with Accenture Federal Services.