I just returned from two weeks in Japan. Visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and the Kii peninsula with its amazing Onsen (hot springs) and pilgrim walks.
One things stands out about Japan and it is NOT being lost in translation because it has actually become much easier to find your way around with english sign posts and guides most places. No, it is the Japanese Customer Service that blew my mind.
The customer service is customer centered and true like I have never experienced it before. One thing is the respectful bows from whom ever you meet and greet in public or in stores. But in the latter you are also always recognized and greeted respectfully upon entry. In restaurants the first person who sees you greets you and does this just as loud so that the rest of the personal even the chefs can hear it and then they too great you. This procedure repeats itself also when you leave again. This makes you feel so much in the center as a customer and first and last impressions are key to having a great customer experience.
Coming from Copenhagen, Denmark which is not a tipping country this practice has always made me feel quite uncomfortable. The fact that friendliness or customer service has a so explicit price tag is just wrong to me. That’s another reason why Japanese customer service is so amazing. Tipping is simply not accepted. They won’t take you money. It is simply disrespectful and that means that their customer service is true to the core. For me as a customer that puts me at ease and it gives me a genuine experience where I am being recognized as a person not just a wallet.
Oh, how we can learn from the Japanese customer centered service. It might be that it is something that is very much culturally rooted in japan and thus hard to reproduce on a broad spectre. But the bar is set so very low in Denmark and many other western countries that great customer service becomes a way to stand out and retain customers. It’s an competitive advantage and a quick win for those who will go that extra mile. And please go that extra mile as it is so valuable and rewarding for both businesses and customers.
I would return to japan just for that feeling of amazing Japanese Customer Centered Service.