Here in the U.S., we live in a tip-happy culture. From pizza delivery guys to hairstylists to baristas, tips are counted on by service-industry workers as part of their salary and accounted for on the part of consumers as part of the total cost of service.
However, tipping isn’t the norm everywhere. It was a surprise to me to see how different the service industry operates in a no-tipping culture like Amsterdam for the 2011 ESOMAR Congress. The service was fine and we were given just what we’d asked for but the wait staff, the bell captain and the taxi drivers weren’t nearly as eager to win me over or as quick with a drink refill. Their tasks were completed pleasantly but with less chit-chat and cheer.
Differences in tipping can be found stateside as well. For example, in Minnesota, servers are paid minimum wage on top of tips whereas in Wisconsin servers are paid an hourly rate significantly lower than minimum wage, assuming that the tips will close the gap. While I think most would agree that the differences are minimal, given that the end result is the same (i.e., you get what you paid for), working for tips – or rather depending on tips – certainly changes the experience. At the very least it changes the customer perception of the experience.
The Great Recession has created ever-increasing customer service expectations and businesses are doing as much as they can to please their patrons but does customer service/experience research take tipping into account? And if this is measured in research, what are the differences?
Is a local bakery with a tip jar in front of the register held to a different standard than the bakery with no tip jar? Are Americans generally more pleased with restaurant service when the customer can decide how much a server has earned for the night? Is a rude computer technician perceived as more rude if he expects a tip at the end of his visit? Is the extra 20 percent worth the extra effort, or would customers rather get no-frills service if it meant no tipping?