Incentivise for Enhanced Customer Experience

I recently experienced two very different customer experience extremes, where the potential of financial gain may have played a major part in the more positive experience. Both were in the entertainment or hospitality business with one in New York and the other in London. One made me feel very content and the other left me frustrated and thoroughly disappointed with the service provided.

In New York, Gayle, our hop-on hop-off tour bus guide was entertaining, informative and funny. This was delivered in a brash, self-deprecating and sarcastic tone where all passengers were engaged and included. She made us, and all the other passengers, feel very welcome on board taking us on a passion inspired journey of her city. We stayed on the bus a little bit longer than planned despite the audio malfunction (Gayle was clearly audible without the microphone!).

A week earlier in London, we were having a birthday party for my youngest son and a handful of his friends in a wonderful new leisure complex. This was a high energy event involving lots of running, jumping, climbing that was cleverly designed to wear out most seven year olds. As is standard nowadays, this is followed by some food for the children, dancing or games and birthday.

We were assigned Marsha (I can’t actually remember her name) as our party organiser, who would be there for us and make sure everyone had a great time. Marsha was clearly not delivering on her job description that day and told us at the start that he she was not well having been out partying all night. Her lethargic behaviour was in total contrast to the mayhem running around the large hall. Marsha’s shoulders were dropped and she was literally dragging her feet as she slowly approached with the colourful cold drinks for the panting kids. I had some empathy for Marsha, as her head must have been pounding. However, I was the paying customer and it was my child’s birthday party. Thankfully, her inability and unwillingness to entertain did not distract from the great fun that all the children had.

Now this was not a scientific study and there are many variables that would sway the customer experience either way, but how much did the potential for additional financial gain play a part? In the UK, Marsha is paid a wage and there is no expectation whatsoever that anyone would pay her a tip, even if she went beyond the bounds of her entertainment remit. This is not me being mean-spirited, a significant payment was already made for the event, and it is just the way it is in the UK.

Meanwhile on the New York open-top bus, the expectation of a tip is not passively hoped for, it is explicitly announced. Gayle explains how important the tips are to her and her driver, Enrique. To some people from non-tipping cultures this can often seem akin to begging. It is not; it is appreciation for the wonderful work Gayle had done and the pleasure she had brought to our lives on that short trip through the street of the Big Apple. If Marsha thought that there was a good chance that she would get a tip for her entertaining, would she have battled through her hangover and made a greater effort?

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