The appearance of the Transportation Security Administration's blog occasioned a great deal of mirth both within and beyond the blogosphere. The TSA has been reviled, justly or not, for greatly increasingly air travelers' inconvenience while not necessarily increasing their safety to a proportionate degree. The TSA's launching a blog and one, moreover, that accepted comments, was like pinning a "kick me" sign to one's back.Predictably, when the TSA blog opened shop, the kicking began. Not so predictably, the TSA accepted the kicking by maintaining a genuinely open comments policy. To give a little flavor, the following are from among the comments:
At least the clowns at the TSA are having some fun with this... ... The real question is Why do we need TSA @ all? We don't, it is a complete waste of time... you check nothing, find nothing, and simply clog up air travel... ... Let's face it--you are strikebreakers, not security people. As pleasant and patient as I try to be with your staff, they are still RUDE, and have the pseudo-official air of camp counselors or DMV workers for the most part. ... You thought my banana was a bomb. It was not a bomb. It was a delicious and nutritious fruit. ... Congratulations on beating the IRS to become the most hated government agency in America. You've earned it!! ...
Some critics of the TSA think that inviting ridicule merits further ridicule. But they miss the point of the whole exercise. By opening the blog, the TSA has acknowledged problems and made a good faith gesture in the direction of addressing them. By saying, in effect, "Let's talk about it," the TSA simultaneously gains a platform to explain what critics might not understand about its procedures and puts the onus of civility on its critics. It channels the criticism and moderates its tone. Perhaps most importantly, the TSA has built a mechanism to track criticism for purposes of improving the quality of its service.
There are lessons here for the insurance industry, which similarly has a less than stellar reputation with the public. Insurance companies aren't necessarily well-advised to start blogs but they would benefit from encouraging policyholder feedback and using that feedback to drive improvement. Even the best service performers are likely to be missing an opportunity here. They may work at mollifying the small number of "squeaky wheels" that bother to complain or otherwise comment but they miss the larger number of customers that tend not to express their complaints.
The impact of that "silent majority" can be tremendous, and at least one vendor thinks it can be calculated.
Fortunately, the Internet has given the quiet ones an easier means of engaging. Customers who would have dreaded picking up the phone think nothing of filling in a field or IM'ing a company representative. However, if insurers want to get the greatest benefit from customer feedback, they have to ask for it.
Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio