My family and I were eating at a high-quality restaurant today and my Dad wanted a straw. Because our waitress wasn’t in sight, he tried asking one of the clean-up ladies for the straw and was surprised when she actually brought him one. He said that usually when he’d ask someone who wasn’t going to get a tip from him (and thus had no interest in his happiness) to get something, they’d say yes but never be seen again. As I said earlier, this was a high-quality restaurant, so I suggested that maybe they were paid something like what I on-the-spot called a “The Customer is Always Right” bonus.
A “The Customer is Always Right” bonus would be small cash incentive to make any customer happy and not just the ones that are going to tip you. The idea is that if everybody is paid the same flat sum of let’s say a $10 bonus everyday/week (this’ll be cash and not part of the regular salary), they could spare up to $10 worth of time to help customers with random thing like getting a straw for them. This way, those who want to be helpful and give the restaurant a good reputation can be helpful without worrying that they are wasting their time on something that won’t benefit them.
Of course there would still be some who would just pocket the money and still not help customers, and at some point all would start to consider the $10 as part of the salary (not a bonus, just a given), but I still think the idea has promise. For those who just keep the money, perhaps have someone make sure they at least try to do something to help customers sometimes. As for the others, maybe the bonus would be changed each week. It’d retain a constant value of about $10, but what the $10 was spent on would be different from week to week, with things like putt putt tickets or candy or whatever. Since the bonus would change, the employees wouldn’t get used to the bonus and start to ignore it.