Businesses should remove tips from bills to restore customer trust, says poll

By Hannah Thompson contact

- Last updated on GMT

63 per cent of consumers say they'd like to see service charges removed from restaurant bills
63 per cent of consumers say they'd like to see service charges removed from restaurant bills

Related tags: Service charges, Customer service

Consumers and business executives would overwhelmingly like to see discretionary charges – or tips – removed from restaurant, hotel, café and bar bills and lack of clarity is eroding trust.

That’s according to a new poll from The Institute of Customer Service, which found that 63 per cent of the 2,014 consumers and executives asked would like to see the charges removed, while 84 per cent said that the Government should regulate in this area.

Over half of respondents were clear that all tips given should go in their entirety to employees.

The poll was conducted to help the Institute respond to the consultation on tipping, gratuities, cover and service charges from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), first opened on 2 May. The reply – following the consultation’s call to evidence and conclusions ‒ was published on 27 June.  

Ultimately, the Institute appeared to agree with many of the Government’s suggestions, in that the current lack of clarity over tipping and service charges is harmful for business in the long term, and erodes customer trust.

It went further, however, saying that businesses should not outline a specific amount to customers for discretionary service payments, and that customers should be free to offer their chosen amount directly to the staff member if they deliver noticeably good service. Customers should also be very confident in the knowledge that none of the tip will go to the business itself, the report continued.  

Jo Causon, chief executive of the Institute of Customer Service, said: “A new normal is needed, where greater transparency inspires greater trust between consumers and organisations. The current lack of clarity, consistency and understanding around how service charges are paid to, and received by, employees is creating mistrust amongst consumers and dissatisfaction amongst employees. 

“Customer priorities are changing.  They are more concerned with employee attitude, behaviour and competence than they are with price – and they want to reward great service properly.  We also know that engagement increases when employees feel they are treated fairly, meaning that a transparent approach to tipping is more likely to build engagement and, with it, excellent levels of service.”

The Institute of Customer Service seeks to act as the professional body for customer service professionals, and has a membership of over 500 members across the public and private sectors, and 4,000 individual memberships.

The controversy oven tipping began in summer last year after a number of high-street chains – such as Cote, Las Iguanas and Bill’s ‒ were accused of misleading tipping policies, using tips to top up staff wages, taking tips from staff when customers believed the staff themselves would receive it, and a lack of clarity in the difference between standard service charge and cash tips.

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