No doubt, you have experienced the following scenario: You go out for drinks and dinner with a group of friends or people you know from work. The beverages flow, time passes and eventually the waiter comes bearing an impossibly complicated bill. It seems like you spend the next hour poring over columns of figures scrawled on a napkin, or possibly the screen of your smartphone, to figure out exactly how much each person owes. By the time you get to the tip, your head is spinning. When the moment has arrived to leave, you hope against hope that your server did not get short-changed in the process.
Now, take off the customer hat and replace it with your professional business attire. As the owner of a salon, restaurant, taxi company or other establishment that provides services, you know how wildly tips can vary. From the customer who blithely fails to give a gratuity every time to the uber-generous one, the field is wide.
In the restaurant industry, for instance, the server is the vital link between the establishment’s proprietor and the customer. Since interactions with the server make up anywhere from 50 to 60 percent of the diner’s entire experience, a good server who does a fine job should expect the average tip to be 20 percent or more. Stress the following suggestions to your staff to optimize the tips they receive. They can help gratuities jump by as much as five percent:
- Be positive, friendly and clean.
- Keep track of your body language, avoiding putting your hands in your pockets or taking casual stances.
- Know the menu from top to bottom, and be prepared to answer customers’ questions.
- Anticipate your customers’ needs by making follow-up visits to the table after the food has arrived.
- If a customer doesn’t like his food, remove it immediately and replace it with what he prefers – on the house.
- Leave the check quickly and efficiently, but don’t disappear. Be available to answer any questions the customer may have.
These time-honored but often overlooked suggestions should help your staff bolster their own tipping experience. In addition, however, you may have caught yourself wondering whether credit card machine technology, which so often offers innovative solutions to problems you don’t always even know you have, will come through with answers once again in this case. As it happens, your speculation just might be correct.
Naysayers and luddites sometimes fault technology, complaining that it makes people less intelligent and lazier. When it comes to tipping, that might not be a bad thing. Solutions such as Groovv Register encourage customers to tip more often and more generously by including tipping functionality directly in the processing system. This iPad cash register can be easily installed in shops, restaurants and salons. When the time comes for a customer to pay with a credit card, the cashier flips the iPad around to enable the card swipe and customers see a tip list that provides them with several choices of gratuity. Your customer must either select a tip amount or push a button saying “no tip” before moving to the next screen. Some might say this amounts to shaming people into giving tips; others postulate that it’s just easier.
Either way, employees have noticed that technology-guided tipping is to their advantage. In many cases, they receive as much as 50 percent more in gratuities. This also holds true in New York’s taxi industry, where cab credit card machines are programmed to suggest tips far higher than most customers would give on their own, often over 30 percent of the cost of the ride. But beware. This sky-high gratuity, while being fine for some customers, has the unwanted effect of irritating others so much that they fail to leave any tip at all.
As with most technological innovations, it is difficult to predict what course technology-guided tipping will take. Perhaps customers will ultimately baulk and give lower rewards to servers, beauticians, etc. On the other hand, the presence of tip amounts that appear to be acceptable by the norm of consumers may actually lead to a sea change in people’s tipping behaviors. As it stands, many of us are vague about if or how much to give to a barista or a taxi driver. If we see the pre-selected amounts often enough on payment screens, our tipping might be modified forever.
Now, think back once again to that dinner and cocktails scenario we presented at the beginning of this article. Imagine how much easier the entire payment process would have been if the restaurant had only had a high-tech tipping solution in place. Since one of the most important predictors of whether a customer will return to an establishment depends on his or her frame of mind at the end of the visit, it stands to reason that a suggested tip amount would not only have seemed like a huge relief at the time, but also it would have led to a more positive feeling about the way the evening went as well as the restaurant where you had dinner.
As the proprietor of a shop, restaurant or other service provider, you know how difficult it is to pay your employees what they really deserve. You count on hefty customer tips to fill some of that gap. If purchasing simple technological solutions such as iPad cash registers can furnish the people who work for you with more incentives to do a good job and remain in your employ, everyone wins.