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How to increase customer and employee satisfaction with tip jars

Updated on June 1, 2010

Employee Satisfaction

How do you increase employee satisfaction in a high turnover industries like fast food or retail? It's not a secret that many fast food places suffer from 100-200% personnel turnover each year. Many people within the United States had fast food or retail jobs at some point in their lives and jumped to "greener pastures" the moment an opportunity presents itself.

Why is that? After being on both sides of the service counter, it appears to me that the issue is a fundamental disconnect between those who serve and those who are being served!

For years after holding my first cashier job I've thanked every fast food, checkout or retail clerk that helped me. Because I knew how sucky and boring it can be on the other side. Lack of appreciation from customers can very easily contribute to the feeling of dissatisfaction with the already minimum wage job. A stream of customers becomes a stream of faceless transactions.

How can this be changed? There have been moments when the faceless blur of customers passing past me stopped. I did a pretty good job at packing bags, and once a customer noticed that. She gave me 1$. That single dollar meant so much more than money. It helped me understand that someone appreciated my minimum wage job. That literally made my day as a cashier!

Very creative

Would this move you?
Would this move you?

Tip jars for customer satisfaction

I've noticed and used tip jars at a local subway near work for more than 2 years now. Recently, I started to notice them in more and more places:

  • Coffee shops
  • Mall food courts
  • Gas station cash registers
This is interesting. In restaurants, tips are included because food is brought to your table and you get additional services like drink refills, etc. Many other places just take money and exchange it for a product. Why are there tip jars? Because someone around is going a good job and wants to be appreciated!

It got me thinking. Can my experience with breaking the "disconnect" with the customer be applied here? A lot of the tip jars that I see are pretty poorly managed, being empty most of the time. Not many people are willing to be the first to put a dollar there. What about pre-stuffing it with a few dollars to demonstrate that people do tip at places other than restaurants?

Customer satisfaction

It seems to me that "tips" are very much taken for granted by a whole range of people, myself included. Very often I would find myself tipping and not really being sure why I do that. Maybe because that makes the other person feel better.

After thinking about this for some time, I realized that applying principles of effective feedback to tip giving may dramatically increase the effect of even a smallest tip!

Principles of effective feedback states that you have to provide feedback on a specific action, so instead of

  • "Thank you"
  • "The customer service was great"

say something more specific like:

  • I really liked how fast you packed the bags < for a checkout clerk
  • I liked how fast you made my coffee < for a coffee shop barista
  • You remembered how many pickles I like on my sandwich < for a subway shop caterer

I'm far removed from working behind the counter and serving customers every day. Yet it seems to me that such simple complements to someone who's doing a good job may turn a day of mind-numbing drudgery into a more pleasant experience and reduce the turnover rate. The tip jars are there to make the process more easy.

A few real life examples

A Starbucks employee can get up to 1.40$ per each hour worked in tips. Tips are split between everyone working on that shift, and must drive up the quality of customer interaction! If someone is not performing, this will reduce the pay for everyone on the shift. This sounds to me not only a great method to ensure customer satisfaction, but also a great method of making extra income! Starbucks drinks are pretty hard to make and some of the fancy mochas involve multiple steps. Getting them just right involves skill!

A subway employee who closes the shop late at night receives the contents of a tip jar. This would not exactly ensure superior service throughout the shift, but gives extra motivation to stay late and close up shop. I know how much I hated working late for minimum wage. This must make the experience more bearable :)


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      8 years ago

      take your jar and shove it! A cheap employer would rather have money in his own pocket then to give employees a raise. Dont make your customers look cheap for not giving tips. It's not their job to increase moral. Are people that egoistic that they think they deserve a tip for putting meat and veggies between 2 slices of bread? Stop giving tips to these people and make the employer do his job!


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