A Refreshing Approach


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Have you ever been in a china shop where a prominently-displayed sign sternly advises all the bulls “If you break it, you’ve bought it”? What’s the rather unsubtle message being sent? How do customers feel when they see that sign? Not a great way to get a customer relationship started on a positive note. Well, I have recently encountered a variation on that theme that truly impressed me.

My wife and I were visiting our daughter recently when we dropped into a tea shop in Kitchener, Ontario, just a couple of blocks from her home. It’s a very nice tea shop with hundreds of varieties of teas from exotic places; teas to alleviate all manner of ailments and stress. It’s also a tea shop that is just full of breakable items—tea pots, china cups and saucers, milk jugs, sugar bowls, glass beakers, ceramic infusers, etc. Realizing this, I busied myself watching our full-of-energy two-year old grandson as he navigated the shelves on which were perched the breakables.

I was being especially cautious, when Karen advised me not to worry as the policy of the store is “if you break something, we’ll get you a cup of tea.” George, who with his partner Susan owns All Things Tea, explained that their view is that people who are unfortunate enough to break something in a store such as theirs already feel badly enough. “Why should we make them feel even worse?” he asked. So, he or Susan will go off and bring back a hot, soothing cup of tea for the slippery-fingered customer. “It relaxes them”, he says.

What a wonderful view and understanding of the customer. The bottom line is that most customers are extremely careful in such stores, they don’t break things very often, and when they do they feel terrible. George and Susan understand the negative power of blame; they understand the emotions at play in this situation. Why blame the customer for an accident? Why have her pay for something that she has dropped when she already feels awful? The customer who pays full price and takes away a broken tea cup is almost certainly not coming back. The approach at All Things Tea is refreshingly different; and it leads to increased word-of-mouth, loyalty, sales, and other long-term benefits. Those who charge for the broken tea cup can’t see past the short-term cost.


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