Outstanding Customer Service

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Shouldn’t a Tip Be About Customer Service?


when is a tip not a tipThis is the sixth installment in an examination of customer service in nine countries – and customer service aboard the MSC Preziosa. (for the previous installment, see this link)

When you think of the word “tip” or the word “gratuitiy,” what do you think of?  Personally, I think of it as the opportunity to thank someone for the customer service you have received. In Canada, and many other countries, a tip can vary depending on the level of service.  There are times, for example, I’ve left as much as 40% for truly exceptional experiences, but then left nothing for truly horrendous ones.

In many European countries, the ‘tip’ is built in.  It really isn’t a gratuity at all, but a fee – a surcharge – with no real benefit attached.  It is basically a restaurant’s way of saying, “We’ve found a way of offsetting a large part of our labour costs.”  Such is the case with the MSC Preziosa – and all MSC cruise lines.  They add a 15% surcharge to everything about the cruise – including the cost of the cruise itself.  They call it a ‘gratuity’, but it really has no relationship to customer service.

Does it really make a difference?  Absolutely.  On the American/British – owned Princess Cruise line, passengers are asked to tip their cabin attendants at the end of the cruise.  That tip gets distributed amongst all of the staff.  The better the service has been, the more money everyone makes.  Simple.  The result?  On the Princess  lines, your cabin attendant takes great pains to introduce hiimself or herself.  He/she goes out of his way to make sure you are getting everything you need.  Throughout the ship, everyone is engaged and involved.  The crew hold each other accountable, because they know that it only takes one poor experience to impact everyone.

That is not the case on the MSC Preziosa.  Because the 15% “Gratuity” (surcharge) is mandatory, everyone gets the same – no matter how well or how poorly their customer service is.

My question is, why not just raise the cost of the cruise by 15% and stop the pretense of it being a gratuity?



Shaun Belding is CEO of The Belding Group and has been consulting and speaking on customer experience for 24 years

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