• December 20, 2023
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Don’t Make Me Pay More for Bad Service

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I’ve worked in plenty of service-related jobs in the past—everything from bartender to bike messenger to busboy, so I know the value of a good tip. That makes me, like so many other people who have worked in these jobs, more apt to tip generously when the service is good. At the same time, I have no problem leaving a bad tip or no tip at all when the service warrants it. The service was so poor once at a casual dining establishment that I left a nickel as a tip for the human drone who was clearly not cut out for the job. I then went home and logged on to the company’s website to voice my displeasure with the service experience.

And while we expect to leave a tip at a restaurant, many other businesses today are putting out the tip jar to supplement their employees’ income. In just the past year or two, tip jars have started to appear next to the cash registers at my local supermarket, deli, coffee shop, dry cleaner’s, and even at the auto repair shop. I don’t have a problem with this, as long as I get to decide whether the service rendered was deserving of a tip.

But now, in today’s culture where everyone feels a sense of entitlement, tipping 20 percent or more is no longer a sign of service that went above and beyond expectations; it’s expected before the service is even rendered.

Restaurant and grocery delivery service DoorDash, for example, recently began piloting a policy whereby its drivers could refuse to deliver orders that don’t specify a big enough tip ahead of time. The company’s mobile ordering app warns that orders in which the customer does not enter a tip amount might take longer to get delivered.

The rationale, according to the company, is that the drivers, known as dashers, find more value in deliveries with preset tip amounts, which inspires them to provide better service, which then drives more positive experiences for both the consumers and the restaurants that are feeding them.

To be clear, consumers can still choose not to tip, but their food is more likely to be cold when it gets there. That’s not a recipe for success if you ask me.

DoorDash’s new practice doesn’t take into account the possibility that I might bestow on the driver a huge tip when my beef enchiladas arrive at my door in 20 minutes still piping hot, brought to me by a professional with a nice appearance and pleasant demeanor. It also takes the pressure off the delivery driver to excel; if dashers want good tips, they should do their jobs well and they will be rewarded.

Believe me, I fully understand that most service-related jobs offer a low base salary and tips are the real source of income, but no one should expect to be rewarded in advance for what might turn out to be a lousy customer experience in the end. That’s not how I work, and I’m not alone.

Market research from Medallia recently found that half of customers would rather drive to pick up their own orders than pay a mandatory 20 percent more in tips and fees for the same food.

To put it in another context, look at this issue’s third feature, “Let Your Products Sell Themselves.” This article discusses a new sales and marketing trend known as product-led growth, in which companies let potential customers sample their products or services pre-purchase with the hope that they will be pleased enough to pay for them the next time around or upgrade to more premium versions later on.

For a company like DoorDash, its product is the delivery experience. And while that requires a special skill that can be ingrained, some aspects of customer service can be taught and learned. DoorDash would be better served by giving its drivers that kind of training. By developing better customer service skills, dashers’ tips will grow on their own, without forcing me to pay a lot more if I want my food order to be edible when it arrives.

Leonard Klie is the editor of CRM magazine. He can be reached at lklie@infotoday.com.

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