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How asking for tips at self-checkout kiosks affects CX

360 Magazine 
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How asking for tips at self-checkout kiosks affects CX

I’ve never been much of a video gamer, but I spent enough times at arcades in my youth that I’m pretty good at pushing past self-checkout kiosk buttons as a way of saying “No.”

Assuming what I buy can fit in my backpack, for instance, I usually say no to bags. Next I often skip past entering my loyalty card (much to my wife’s chagrin). Then there are philanthropic nudges, such as asking whether I will give some extra money to a children’s hospital or women’s shelter. Please don’t call me Scrooge because I don’t want to make a charitable donation every time I shop.

Now, although it hasn’t happened to be yet, there are a number of self-checkout kiosks that are serving up an additional prompt: asking customers whether they would like to add a 20% tip. For . . . someone.

The Wall Street Journal reported that these gratuity requests are popping up on self-checkout kiosks at a variety of locations, including airports and stadiums. The reaction from both sides of the issue are pretty predictable, based on the WSJ article:

Tipping researchers and labor advocates say so-called tip creep is a way for employers to put the onus for employee pay onto consumers, rather than raising wages themselves. Companies say tips are an optional thanks for a job well done.

A 26-year-old customer quoted in the piece put it even better, calling self-checkout gratuities “emotional blackmail.” Not a great feeling to make people have as they complete the transactional stage of a customer journey.

Part of the problem, of course, is the mystery of who gets the money. This could be easily alleviated by including a one-line message in conjunction with the tipping prompt that explains gratuities are split equally at the end of a shift.

There’s also a question of why you would tip a machine that has effectively replaced human interaction. This is an opportunity for brands to remind customers of the many employees who work behind the scenes in delivering their experience, including those, such as warehouse staff, who traditionally never get tips. Doing this, however, would mean adding more messaging on the self-checkout kiosk screen.

Another option would be to use receipts. Brands already include detailed information about return policies here. Why not include a brief paragraph explaining your tipping policy and why employees deserve them, even if customers are finalizing purchases themselves?

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Brands could take it up another level by having a link or QR code that takes them to a CX survey that includes a question about whether they tipped, and why. This could identify areas of CX strength as well as areas to improve. If customers didn’t tip, that might tell you it’s time to take it off the self-checkout kiosks.

Tipping is always a controversial issue, even if it’s a standard part of many business operations. The shift to digital processes (including self-checkout) creates an opportunity to let customers tip with something other than money, such as insight about how employees contributed to their experience, or even points towards an employee rewards program where they could earn time off or discounts on their own purchases.

It’s heartening to see that, despite gratuities popping up in unexpected places, people are still surprisingly generous. The WSJ story said tips through the payment service Square were up 17 per cent over last year.

I wonder if those in physical locations are still willing to give a gratuity because they can still see some employees nearby. It might be a much different story when – I doubt it’s an ‘if’ – gratuity prompts become a standard part of e-commerce transactions too. Brands should develop a better communications strategy with customers before that happens. Just a tip.

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