Here’s what a London cabbie taught me about customer service

Recently I learned something about customer service from a London cabbie. Actually I met the cabbie two years ago. But it wasn’t until a few weeks ago I fully understood the lesson he taught me.

It was spring 2008 and I was spending a week in London doing training for a client. Because I was not driving in London (I could barely walk across the street without getting killed – seriously) I used a cab to get around. To make things easier, I engaged the services of the same cabbie the whole time I was there.

This thrilled my cabbie. And it elevated him and his service too. He became my personal tour guide and trip advisor. This made it more fun for both of us. He got a steady customer for a few days. I had someone who knew his way around. And I never had to worry about getting anywhere.

Finally, my stay came to an end and my cabbie dropped me off at Heathrow.  As I gave him his final fare and a tip he did something that surprised me. He gave me my tip back. For the next several hours I found myself wondering why he did that.

Now, almost two years later, I understand.

At our regular weekly breakfast, one of the guys explained it to me. He said it’s called “tipping back”. London cabbies often do it when they’ve enjoyed having someone as a customer.

As a customer, it got my attention. It made an impact. Think about it. I’ve handed out thousands of tips over the years. But, with the exception of  this London cabbie, I’ve never gotten one back.

This got me thinking. How could other businesses use this concept? How could other businesses tip their customers back and have a similar impact?

Remember, it’s not about giving something away. It’s not about offering a discount. It’s about making a statement in a tangible and memorable way. Tipping back a customer means finding a way to let them know you appreciate them. You’ve enjoyed working with them. It’s your way of telling a customer they are special.

At it’s most basic, tipping back might just be a genuine thank you. It might be the simple act of telling your customer how much you enjoy working with them.

Here’s a challenge:

Think of at least three ways you could tip your customers back. Keep money out it. Focus on things you could do or say that would have an impact. If you’re stuck, talk about it with a colleague, a co-worker or your manager. Or post to Twitter about it.

After you think of some, pick one of your “tip-backs” and start doing it with your customers. Then watch what happens. I think you’ll like the results.

The article was written by Kevin Stirtz