Tipping restaurant servers, delivery drivers, cab drivers, hair stylists, and movers has become a common practice in today’s world. It’s considered good etiquette to reward the aforementioned occupations because they’re delivering a service. But, what about service contractors? Is tipping a typical practice among HVAC technicians on service, repair, or even installation calls?
According to Christina Johnson, owner of Supreme Heating & Air Conditioning Co. Inc. in Suluda, North Carolina, while it’s not an uncommon occurrence, it also doesn’t happen with regularity.
“It’s happened several times, and it’s not always the same guys getting tips,” Johnson said. “We stress great customer service. I want my guys to communicate with customers. I encourage them to be friendly and ask homeowners about their families. That’s important to me. I expect cordial communication across the board.”
Johnson, along with many other HVAC contractors, has no formal policy dictating whether or not employees can accept tips, though she said she doesn’t have a problem with the practice.
“If a customer is so pleased with the work of our technicians and feels they went above and beyond what was expected, receiving a tip boosts their egos and improves morale.” she said. “If a customer is that pleased, then the work will likely lead to referrals. And, word of mouth, a lot of times, has a major impact on your company. It works better than advertising, at times.”
Johnson added, she also does not specify limitations on service or installation calls, frequency, or amounts.
“I think we pay our guys well, but if they can provide a better service and receive a tip, that’s only going to boost their own confidence, self worth, and the work they do,” Johnson said. “I typically ask them to say, ‘That’s not necessary, this is my job, it’s what I do.’ If the customer insists, then that’s okay. I also note it in a customer’s files when technicians are tipped because we send out Christmas cards every year and I want our customers to know if they went above and beyond for that technician, what a great asset that customer is to us.”
NO POLICY IN PLACE
Much like Supreme Heating & Air Conditioning, Gaithersburg, Maryland-based GAC Services does not have a policy regarding tipping to guide employees.
“I know it happens,” said Rich Biava, GAC Services’ vice president. “Sometimes, a customer will pay $100 cash for an $89 diagnostic call and tell them to keep the change. We don’t tell them they can’t accept it. And how would we even enforce it?”
As a customer, Biava said he tips and doesn’t see a problem allowing his employees to accept one from a customer willing to offer it. “The guys are not asking for it, and they are performing a service.”
Biava said he could see why it could be a cause for concern for some companies. “Before you know it, they’re doing extra work and spending an extra half hour doing things for the customer,” he said. “I know our guys would not go down that path or even entertain it. The guys we have see this as a career, not just a job, so I don’t think they would risk doing something they shouldn’t be for $20 — not to say that it couldn’t happen somewhere else. I can see where that could be a problem.”
According to Biava, repeat customers who appreciate a technician’s thoroughness tend to tip more frequently. Additionally, people tend to give a little more around the holidays.
David Watson, a senior HVACR technician for One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning LLC in Port Orange, Florida, said tips are pretty common in his area, and his company has no rules limiting them.
“They [customers] are especially generous on maintenance calls that extend into the late evening or wee hours of the morning,” Watson said. “I’ve been given as much as $100 on rare occasions. And the only tips I’ve ever turned down were from sweet little ladies on a fixed income or from those enduring other hardships.”
BAKED GOODIES OVER CASH
Money is not the only way people show appreciation. Many HVAC technicians have been gifted baked goods and other sweet treats.
“We’ve had customers give our technicians all kinds of food and baked goods,” Johnson said. “That happens a lot, actually. They give them a dish and say, ‘Here, take this home, I want you to have this.’ So, it’s not always monetary gifts.”
Biava said some of his customers have bought lunch for installation teams. “They’ll buy our guys pizza or subs, things like that. And, the guys appreciate it. From a maintenance standpoint, there are certain guys that go to homes where they’ve formed relationships with the customer, and, before you know it, the customer has a lunch made for them. They’re interested in talking and maintaining a friendship with their technicians.”
One customer even passed along a piece of furniture, Biava said. “One of our technicians had started up a conversation about how much he liked an old basement chandelier, and the customer told him to take it. He actually put it up in his kitchen.”
Additionally, customers are known to gift things they are proud of, such as if they make their own beer or wine. “One guy made wooden clocks and he gave a technician one of those,” Biava noted.
“If someone is tipping, then they’re talking about us — at least I would think they are — when something comes up about heating and air conditioning,” Biava said. “I feel very good when I hear stories about how a customer made bread for one of our technicians or how they ate lunch together with the customer. Those are the kinds of things that are unique. I’m sure many contractors have seen situations like that. It makes you feel like you’re going down the right path.”
UNFAIR TO COWORKERS
Not everybody thinks HVACR technicians should be accepting tips. Chuck Blouse, sales engineer/marketing representative for Williams Service Co. in York, Pennsylvania, said the practice is unfair to the company’s other employees, including the dispatcher, accounts payable, accounts receivable, service manager, sales engineer, warehouse manager, and everyone else involved in the total sale.
“There are many people involved in a successful service call,” Blouse said. “The technician should not be the only employee to receive a personal reward. As a technician, I’ve been in the position where a customer offered me a tip, and I explained to the individual that we were not allowed to accept tips.
Tipping is also a residential service event, as it would not even be considered following a commercial or industrial service call. I read recently where restaurants are getting away from tipping the wait staff, as well. Everyone from the host to the dishwasher is involved in the total customer experience. It’s the total customer experience that determines the success of the call, not just the actions of the service technician on-site.”
Publication date: 12/14/2015