• January 2, 2004

Hot Seat: Tipping the Customer Service Scales

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It's customary to tip at restaurants, hotels, salons, etc., but over the past several years there has been an explosion of tip jars popping up at cash registers everywhere. While some happily drop their change into the tip jar in exchange for the perfect double latte, others find tip jars aggressive and resent being asked for additional cash--especially as prices continue to increase. Like it or not, many other businesses are following suit. Tip jars are popping up at the deli, the bagel shop, even the dry cleaners. With America's tip obsession in mind, CRM magazine asked, "Is it a good idea to implement a method of online tipping for customers to reward exemplary customer service?" Bob Furniss, president and cofounder, Call Center Ideas:
It's a very cool concept to be able to give immediate feedback and rewards to agents. My concern is that there has to be a way for the company, not the customer, to give the money or reward to the agent. Many companies already have rewards, but if an agent could put a caller into a survey after the call, that might work. Then a phone system might ask the caller to press a button to rate her level of satisfaction and the job that the agent did, and money or rewards for the agent could be directly tied to that call. That would also accomplish the task of letting the agent know which calls they are being rewarded for. The technology is already out there to do this, but it would be a new slant on information we are not getting. Denis Pombriant, vice president and general manager, Aberdeen Group's CRM practice: Part of the problem with service today is there is a great deal of turnover. Companies are building complex systems to give people a good level of service, but customer reps are still not paid that well. Customers are obsessed with low prices, and to deliver goods or services for the lowest prices and remain competitive companies often have to offer just the most basic service and support. Tipping is usually associated with jobs where the pay is inadequate. And customer service often falls into that category. It might come to where tipping happens. It wouldn't surprise me, but it would be better for customers if the overall pay level for customer service agents increased. ChartRobb Eklund, vice president of CRM marketing, Oracle: No tipping. I think there is already a flavor of tipping, which is giving good satisfaction ratings to agents who then get a raise based on performance. The basis of CRM is to provide essential services. Customer service is essential and we want to foster good feelings there. Also, without tipping, companies could offer different levels of service--premium service, etc.--customers have to pay for. Ian Jacobs, analyst, The 451: It could be a good idea, but implementation is the key. If a customer were badgered in any way it wouldn't work. Tip jars are everywhere and it's getting more aggressive. This couldn't be aggressive. The implementation would be tricky, but it has to be the customer that initiates anything. Customers would resent it if they felt like the company was somehow asking for more money. Call center representative for a large software company: I never expect to be tipped for giving good service. That is my job. There are already very strict measurements of our performance to make sure we give good service. I think the idea could work, but it would be tricky and it has to be totally in the hands of the customer. It would be kind of touchy.
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