The holiday season was a time for celebration, giving, and reflecting on the past year and things to come. But an area that is often overlooked is customer service, not just during the holidays but every day of the year. Dr. Harry Weger, Professor and Assistant Director of Communication Programs at the Nicholson School of Communication and Media, addresses this concern in a recent interview. As a matter of fact, his research with John Seiter from Utah State University has mostly focused on strategies for increasing servers’ tips or improving customer satisfaction with service. That being said, it is with great hope that individuals welcome these new ideas to improve the customer service experience.
Weger and Seiter are motivated to do this research for a couple of reasons, that of which Weger said, “First, we are both interested in persuasion and compliance gaining so this is way to study those strategies in real world, applied contexts where the results are real and not just marks on a survey. And second, we were both servers in restaurants, we know the stress of the job and how underpaid servers often are. We hope to improve their lives by finding ways to increase their income and also to help the businesses they work for succeed because many restaurants are judged primarily by the service they receive.”
With this knowledge in mind, after the interview, I compiled Dr. Weger’s responses and created a list of tips to use next time someone is interacting with customer service/hospitality individuals and vice versa.
Customer Service Tips:
- Larger dining parties and bad weather tend to decrease tips.
Although if the server says, “I heard the weather will be better tomorrow” the effect of the weather is eliminated. Some environmental elements can increase tips such as lively background music and customer alcohol consumption can both increase tips.
- Adding an additional piece of candy in view of the customer while saying, “here’s an extra piece of candy” can result in a small increase in tips.
The idea is that giving the person “extra” candy is giving them something special compared to other diners.
- Generalized compliments work best for larger tables.
Generalized compliments on the customer’s choice of dishes works well for larger tables, however, specific compliments to each individual member of a dining party can diminish the tips or have no effect for parties of four or larger. Complimenting each diner in those larger parties probably seems mechanical or disingenuous.
- Servers who say something funny also earn larger tips than when they don’t.
- Boxing leftovers and writing the dish on the container increases tips.
- Servers who address customers by their first name as they deliver the check resulted in higher tips for customers younger than about 40.
- For customers older than 40, we found the opposite effect, with the more formal form of address increasing tips compared to using the customers’ first name.
- Memorizing orders does not necessarily increase tips.
- Memorization of orders has no advantage and results in a larger penalty for both the server (in tips) and the restaurant (lower satisfaction the dining experience).
- Anything that you might do to present yourself as positive, upbeat, and interested in the person you’re talking to improves tips.
Smiling, agreeing with customers when you can, complimenting one or two on their orders, writing “thank you” or “it was a pleasure to serve you” on the check all seem to be helpful in improving tips.
- Consistent with work on image restoration, apologizing for mistakes in combination with blaming the mistake on the kitchen seems to work best in avoiding decreased tips.
- Minimizing the mistake, “No big deal, I’ll get what you ordered right out” or especially disagreeing with the customer, “You ordered the steak, but I’ll get you the fish right away” not only does real harm to the server’s tips but also results in negative perceptions of the restaurant by increasing the probability the customer will write a negative review on Yelp or some other site.
- Customers can help improve hospitality workers’ experience by being patient and understanding.
When a server makes a mistake realize they are not perfect, probably are very busy, and they want to fix the problem as fast as they can as they know their income depends on making you happy. As with so many things in life, try to imagine how would you want someone to treat you or your child in the same situation.
- Keep in mind customers are also stressed especially during the holiday season.
Obligations to spend money when money is short, seeing higher menu prices, and fighting holiday shopping traffic are all stressful and can put people in a bad mood. Try to be extra kind to customers.
- Try to keep your perspective.
The world will not end if your dinner takes a few extra minutes to get to your table. The kitchen and front of house staff are doing their best.
- The tip should always be considered part of the price of the meal.
I don’t mean for this to sound cold or harsh, but the tip should always be considered part of the price of the meal, so if you can’t afford an extra 20% above the menu price, you can’t afford to go to a restaurant.
Additionally, Dr. Weger mentions that “I hope that in the very near future John and I will no longer be able to study tipping in restaurants because the practice will be mostly eliminated like it is in most of Europe. This is one of the only jobs where servers rely on the good will of the customer to earn a decent living. Servers should earn a wage for their work just like the back of the house does.” Thank you, Dr. Weger for lending your expertise for this list of customer service tips!
By Majdulina Hamed.
Published to Nicholson News on January 4th, 2023.
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