David and Herschel Segal both deserve Nobel Prizes in “Damn Fine Tea” and knighthoods from the King and Queen of Outstanding Customer Service because their company blows me away with more force than a visa-starved Bangkok hooker.
I paid a visit to DAVIDsTEA in Toronto’s Eaton Center this week and I left with more than just a couple hundred bucks of high quality tea paraphernalia. I left with a refreshing schooling in world class customer service and a hunger to write up my learnings while I sip from a bowl of delicious ceremonial matcha.
3 Outstanding Customer Service Lessons From
It doesn’t matter if you’re in the tea industry or not. Whatever your business, you’re in the people-pleasing business and you can do little better than visit DAVIDsTEA right now and study from the best. Of course, if you’re outside Canada and you don’t feel like hopping on a plane or train just to learn a customer service lesson, I’ll give you a run-down of 3 lessons you can learn right here.
Customer Service Lesson #1: Know Thy Product
I can’t believe the amount of times I’ve gone into a store and been met with staff who DON’T HAVE A CLUE about what they’re selling.
If I had a dollar for every time I visited a store and received service like this….
…. I would be filthy stinking rich and I’d use all those dollars to buy those stupid companies and give their staff a much-needed customer service lesson.
But the DAVIDsTEA customer service experience is not like every other store out there.
They COULD be like every other store. They could probably get away with it for a while. For example, they could be like an English tea chain (which I won’t name) and have a customer service dialogue that looks like this conversation I had recently:
Saleswoman: Can I help you find anything?
Me: Yeah, I’m looking for some Japanese teas.
Saleswoman (confused): Japanese teas? Hmm… I’m not sure we have any of those.
Me: Oh, here they are. I was looking right at them.
Saleswoman: Oh, okay. So anything you need in particular?
Me: Do you have sencha?
Me: Sencha. Or gyokuro?
Saleswoman: Ha-ha-ha! I’ve never heard of that.
That’s a real conversation I had with someone working in a popular tea shop. You can see that the bar is set pretty low. It’s set so low, in fact, that when staff members ask me what I’m looking for, I just pretend I’m browsing because I can save my time by simply looking for what I want myself.
So when I went into DAVIDsTEA and the nice man behind the counter asked if I was looking for anything in particular, I said “Japanese stuff” with a lot of hesitation.
But do you know what happened?
The man leapt into life. This is a close rendering of what he said:
“Japanese teas?! Great! Fantastic! We’ve got a ton of great Japanese teas. We’ve got three kinds of sencha at the moment. This one here is our bestseller. Almost everyone today has been buying it so we’re almost running out. For a similar price, you can also get this limited edition sencha, which comes straight from the source in Japan. Or you can get this aromatic sencha here. Have a smell. We also normally have gyokuro but it seems like we’re all out but we can order some and put it on hold for you if you like. We have several varieties of genmaicha too. And of course we have several options for matcha lovers, including this really creamy ceremonial matcha from Nishio.”
While the guy said all of this (and more), he pulled down relevant tins from the shelves, opened them, and held them out for us to smell.
He also asked A LOT of questions. Specific questions targeted at finding out exactly what our tea tastes were and what we had experienced before.
In short: this guy KNEW HIS STUFF.
He knew his product so well and this made me super excited. I suddenly felt extremely comfortable buying tea here and I also wanted to buy MORE. The more he talked, the more I was swayed to try new stuff I hadn’t before.
This guy knew his stuff and it made the whole experience so much richer. Now when I sip on the sencha or matcha that I bought, I recall all the tidbits this guy told me and I can almost imagine the Japanese tea fields from which the tea originated.
It felt like I was geeking out with a fellow tea lover. And this is kind of customer service experience that makes your customers remember you, do more business with you, and love you.
Customer Service Lesson #2: Love Thy Product
You can probably tell from what I’ve written above but, in case it wasn’t obvious, let me assure you that this guy cleared LOVED the hell out his product.
This guy was a tea lover. As were all the other salespeople in the store.
Not only did they know everything about the different teas, they were clearly passionate to talk about tea as much as possible.
They would talk about origins, new seasonal blends, temperatures for different teas, teas from different countries, the best apparatus for tea lovers, and more.
If you’re selling a product to a specific niche (like tea), you’ve got to assume that the overwhelming majority of customers visiting your store already know and love tea.
With that assumption in place, can you really risk staffing your stores with people who don’t also love your product?
The terrible tea store in England did that. They clearly didn’t care that me (the customer) knew about and loved tea more than their salespeople. Was the risk worth it? Personally, I don’t think so because I will never go back there again. Never.
But just like how Apple fills their stores with passionate Geniuses and Indigo Bookstore fills their stores with passionate bibliophiles, DAVIDsTEA fills its stores with passionate tea lovers.
And it is worth it.
I don’t know what the hiring process looks like for a DAVIDsTEA, but a part of me thinks that there are a lot of tea-related questions to weed out the matcha mavericks from the matcha masters.
Love your product and you are going to sell more of your product.
Passion is contagious and passionate people buy more.
Customer Service Lesson #3: Make Them Try Thy Product
What’s the first thing that happens when you walk through the door of a DAVIDsTEA store?
You get a DELICIOUS CUP OF TEA.
A smiling staff member greets you passionately and offers you a tray with glasses of freshly brewed, freshly poured tea.
You sample the tea. They tell you about what you’re drinking (name/ingredients/similarity to other teas). Then you browse the store with that warm tea in your belly. When you finish your tea, they offer to refill it or ask if you wish to try another sample.
Why is this great?
Well marketers have known for a long time that people are WAY MORE LIKELY TO BUY a product if they already feel like they own the product.
That’s why copywriters go to such lengths to utilise tactile language when they know you can’t physically handle the product. They want you to feel as though you have the product in front of you.
That’s why car salesmen approach you on the forecourt and ask, “Wanna take her for a ride? Get in. Smell the leather. She’s a beauty, ain’t she?”
That’s why Hamleys, the greatest toy store in the world, has staff members playing with the toys and getting YOU to play with the toys – be it a remote control car, something gooey that splats against the wall, or a video game – as soon as you enter the store.
DAVIDsTEA gives you a delicious cup of tea and peaks your interest. It makes you want more. It makes you happy. If it was cold outside (which, my store being in Toronto, it was), the tea warms you up. It makes you feel leisurely, like you’re enjoying browsing the tea.
Giving you a free tea also kicks the law of reciprocity into overdrive.
The law of reciprocity basically means that people feel obliged to give something back when they receive something for free.
That’s why the Hare Krishnas give you a flower when they want you to make a donation.
That’s why your freelance proposals should offer a lot of upfront value to your client.
That’s why my plan to eat lots of free fudge from the Fudge Kitchen in Oxford failed. Those crafty bastards offered me free fudge every time I passed their store and I never intended to buy a single thing. But the fudge tasted SO GOOD and I felt so guilty so I ended up spending hundreds of pounds…. On fudge.
So DAVIDsTEA give you a free tea when you enter the store (also on your birthday if you become a member) and then any customers who were originally on the fence about buying tea suddenly become way more likely to buy something.
DAVIDsTEA: A Fortress Filled With Customer Service Gems
I could talk forever about all the things they do right at DAVIDsTEA.
I could talk about how friendly the staff were. A feat that’s particularly impressive in Toronto…
I could talk about how beautifully packaged everything is. How the branding is wonderfully captivating, the tea names are fantastic, and the colours and layout of the store is gorgeous.
I could rave for days about DAVIDsTEA. But I would much rather implore you to simply visit one of their stores and find out how great they are for yourself.
Note: I do not work for DAVIDsTEA and have no personal or financial affiliation with them. I just freaking love their tea, their brand, and their customer service. I’m not being paid to promote them… Although, David, if you’re reading this… please send me tons of free tea 😉