Let’s make things worse

My wife wrote about Edinburgh Airport earlier so I thought I’d top trump her and do the same… only better.

Edinburgh Airport has recently been bought over by a new outfit.  Previously it was owned by BAA and I have to say it was a pretty slick operation.

For example Security, even on the busiest days, worked really well.  Plenty of staff, friendly, efficient and above all, fast.  It was never a bad experience and the queue management was excellent.

But, oh what a difference a few weeks have made.

I first noticed it a couple of months ago.  I was travelling early on a Sunday morning and got the airport with an hour to spare.  Security was absolutely mobbed.  The queues were truly awful.  I got the flight okay but the stress of the slow moving queue took its toll and I had to have an in-flight muffin.

I didn’t think too much about it at the time.  But I was travelling a week later and the same thing.  Perhaps it was just Sunday mornings?  The following week I travelled on a Wednesday morning… the same thing.  Today it’s a Friday… the same thing.

Except this morning I noticed the entry point into Security is controlled by self service machines not people… something the travelling public was clearly struggling with, causing an additional queue.

In the airport itself, not much has changed.  It doesn’t seem there are more people about and flights are still generally getting away on time.

My worry is this, though…

Clearly the new owners have changed something in Security (apart from the new purple shirts the team is wearing).   There are new processes which aren’t immediately obvious but are having an effect.  I suspect (although I don’t know) that the changed processes relate to staffing levels.

There’s probably reduced staffing in Security.  Security checks themselves cannot be reduced so the pinch point is the passenger waiting time.  This is an example of a business changing a process and making the customer experience worse.

Of course, this may have been a commercial decision and if so, fair enough.  However I would say that it can only have a short term positive effect on finances as passenger complaints will lead to either another change in processes to restore service levels or fewer passengers.

Both of which will have a negative impact on finances.

I’m a great believer in change – I like it when things shift and move.  Sometimes it’s horrible but usually when the dust settles positives can be drawn.  But it’s the unintended consequences that cause the problems.

That’s why, when franchisors introduce new processes it’s vital they are thought all the way through and thoroughly tested in a pilot operation… that’s one of the key reasons to have a pilot, to make sure there are no unintended consequences.

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