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Best-kept customer service secret? Work for the tips

Ever leave a tip?

Sure you have. And most of the time when you leave a tip, it’s based on the service or the quality that you perceive.

Sometimes it’s a combination of qualities: food plus server.

But these days, tipping has changed. Everyone seems to have a hand out, asking — no, begging — for more money. If you go into a Starbucks, there’s the familiar plastic bin by the cash register that’s always filled to some varying degree with change and a few bucks. Or it might be a jar. Could be a fish bowl. Whatever it is, it’s ever present where you see a counter and a few servers.

What the workers are really saying is, “My company doesn’t pay me enough, so I need to beg you for more.”

Now I know this seems a bit harsh. “Oh, those poor people slaving behind the counter.” But the bottom line is, the company that employs them is making huge profits while their front line people predominantly starve. People on the front lines are always the lowest paid. I wish I understood it. But I don’t. No, I’m not a socialist, but I am a pragmatist.

That’s one way of looking at tipping. Let’s take a look at another way: suppose EVERYBODY on the front lines of service had to EARN tips.

The friendly skies?

Ever go to an airport? If you’re like me, and you check a bag (or two), you go to a skycap. Skycaps work for tips. I know this, and I tip liberally as a result of it.

The skycaps at the airport in Charlotte, N.C. — my home airport — are the best in the U.S. They’re friendly. They’re helpful. They don’t have a jar out. They do the same excellent job — whether they’re tipped or not.

But suppose EVERYBODY in the airport had to work for tips. People at the ticket counter, the flight attendants and the people in baggage claim. Can you imagine if they HAD to work for tips?

At the end of a day, they’d go home with no money, griping to their significant other about the lousy tippers at the airport. Never for one second thinking that maybe their lousy service, and poor attitude, contributed to their negligible income.

But wait! There’s more!

Think of all the other rude front line people in the world. How about the administrative people in a doctor’s office? Would you tip them? What about gatekeepers when you’re making a cold call? Would you tip them? What about sales clerks who ignore you when you’re shopping? Would you tip them? I doubt it.

At the root of a tip you’ll find friendliness, helpfulness and service. But there’s a secret. In order to perform this you have to have the desire to serve. And you have to display the pride that goes along with giving great service.

No successful server is ever going to say, “I’m doing the best I can,” or “They don’t pay me enough to do that,” or “It’s not my job.”

The point here is that service has nothing to do with the company. Service has everything to do with the people who work for the company.

What’s your tip?

Ever go to a hotel? The doorman is friendly because he works on tips. The bellman is friendly because he works on tips. So why doesn’t the front desk clerk work on tips?
It’s interesting to note that many bellmen work at the same hotel for years, while front desk position turns over as much as 400% a year.

How do you serve? Could you earn tips?

Think about the last server you had in a restaurant. Think about how they should have served and convert that to your service. Here are 4.5 “tips to earn the tip.” (Even if it’s not in the form of money.)

1. Start with a smile. Smiles are contagious. People want to know you’re happy.

2. Engage in a friendly manner. Start with your name. Stop when it comes to your canned pitch. Why don’t you say something like, “This is a great restaurant. You’re gonna have a great meal.” Make a statement that gives others comfort.

3. Help others sincerely and without expectation. Your job is to serve. Do that with excellence, and all will be well.

4. Tell them how nice it was to serve them. Be sincere. That’s no problem if you’ve been sincere all along.

4.5 Thank them. The best way to end your encounter is to say, “Thanks for being my customer, hope to see you again soon.”

If you serve like you’re working for tips, your reward will be much more than financial. It will be personal fulfillment. That’s the tip you give yourself.

Better than money?

Sometimes the best tip you can give others isn’t money. For example, I often give a signed copy of my book to people I feel went above and beyond their duty. For you, if you haven’t written your book yet, it might be dried flowers from your garden, or something that you made, or a keepsake that costs a buck or two. You can find tons of them at little gift stores. A small gift is most often better than a monetary tip — because it’s from the heart.

The best tip of all that you can give to others is a kind word of thanks or a compliment. They love hearing it from customers because they probably never hear it from their boss.

GitBit: Got a great service tip? E-mail it to heather@gitomer.com. We’ll post them on the Gitomer website once they’re all collected. To view them, go to www.gitomer.com, register if you’re a first time user and enter the word TIPS into the GitBit box.

Jeffrey Gitomer, author of “The Sales Bible,” and “Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless,” is president of Charlotte-based Buy Gitomer. He gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings and conducts training programs on selling and customer service. He can be reached at (704) 333-1112 or e-mail


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