by Larry Mead, Kate Kompelien and Kurt Schroeder
Browsing the top 100 Instagram accounts, as listed by Rolling Stone, you will see familiar names throughout. If you're looking for the highest ranking government account however, you have to scroll all the way down to the bottom… because they're listed in reverse order.
There, at number 4 overall, edging out Beyonce (sorry Bey-hive) is the Transportation Security Administration Instagram account. That's right, the TSA that you all have grown to expect at every airport around the country has a social media feed, and it's hilarious.
I found this gem at a recent government conference focused on customer experience for citizens. Where you'd typically find a bunch of suits and stern faces, I met a new generation of public service workers dedicated to making all of our interactions with the government exceptional. That's where I met Jennifer, head of the AskTSA program. Launched in 2015, AskTSA is a social outreach program for that provides travelers direct access to ask any question they want, on any topic they want.
And ask, they do – AskTSA handles around 1,000 questions per day. Despite the social forum, and the number of inquiries - each of them is answered, by a human, in about 25 minutes or less! Jennifer Plozai, Director of External Communications for the TSA, aims to make it simple to engage with the agency; “We’re available on Twitter and Facebook Messenger to help travelers in real-time - our goal is to make talking to our team as easy as talking to your friends.”
AskTSA has taken the best part of citizen experiences – the part about human interactions -- and made it work for them. Rather than approaching CX with the organization as the focus, the TSA has figured out how to engage citizens on their own terms.
The 10 staff members have even taken a humorous approach to bridge the gap between the strict perceptions of airport staff and the real information that is exchanged to help people understand the process. Understanding and engagements have established a level of empathy and appreciation for this most-visible of government entities. As Bob Burn, Social Media Lead for AskTSA, puts it, “Mixing agency messaging with humor is a very effective way to get people to read your content. Especially when your content can be very dry. It also brings them back looking for more.”
Lesson: Be more like the TSA, remember that your customers have a heart, and aim to view your organization from the customer perspective. You can be rewarded as much as the customers are. Jennifer and her team get those rewards - “We receive feedback every day that we’re changing the way people see TSA, and that feels really good.”
The next time you find yourself falling in love with a scurry of stuffed squirrels rowing a boat during your travels, you won't have to worry about whether or not you can carry them home on your flight. Just AskTSA on their Instagram account. You can even get answers to all of your stuffed squirrel queries through Facebook Messenger. #nosquirrelleftbehind #squirrelsreallycanfly #maybe #wedontknowaskTSA