Friday, February 8, 2013

A Little Organization Goes a Long Way

When I arrived at Saigon's Tan Son Nhut Airport a few days ago, I was impressed with the layout and newness of the airport. Somehow I had expected it to be a run-down, old relic from the Vietnam war days.

Less impressive was the 2.5h wait to obtain a visa, especially since I had applied previously online and received a letter from the Vietnam Embassy advising me that all was okay, all I had to do was pay on arrival.

The processing staff on duty was obviously overwhelmed by the two or three hundred people who had disembarked from several aircraft around the same time. From a small counter with a protective plastic screen and a small hole through which to talk, all these people had to submit their passports and documentation and then move away and wait to be called back to collect their passport and pay the visa fee.

There is no barrier between the front of the office window to keep the crowd away. Thus, dozens of people milled about blocking the path of those whose names had been called to receive their visas. This slowed the process considerably as visa recipients had to fight their way through several layers of other happy customers.

The loud speaker wasn't very loud at all and the Vietnamese lady calling the names had difficulty expressing many of the names of the foreigners in the herd. Many people became agitated at having to wait so long and returned to the counter window to ask, "Is my Visa ready yet?" This slowed the process even further and obviously annoyed the processing staff, for whom I felt most sympathetic.

I remember thinking how much money a small coffee kiosk would make surrounded by unhappy, tired and thirsty travellers. There was none. Neither was there anywhere to buy or obtain water. Standing for 2.5 h or more in humid conditions without sufficient fluid could be a recipe for disaster for some people.

With just a little imagination and perhaps a few thousand dollars in expenditure, the problem could have been  rectified. A speech synthesizer could have been used for the processing officer to enter names and have the loudspeaker messages in English. Most of those who were not from English speaking countries were English speakers. None seemed to know Vietnamese.

The key to success in business is that when you find a problem, you also find a solution. A little organization goes a long way.


PS: What have been your airport experiences.

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