Customer Experience – The Japanese way

Recently I happened to meet my close friend, who is back from Japan. It was a casual encounter, considering that we both were relaxed and enjoying a lazy weekend. It was a long awaited meet as he was away from me for so many years. We settled down at a cozy restaurant with a coffee and started chatting.

After exchanging some pleasantries, we were slowly engrossed in some serious conversation. For me, knowing about Japan, its people and its culture is more exciting than anything else and I just grabbed the chance to quickly chat on all these topics. During the course of our conversation dwelling about the Japanese way of life, their discipline and courtesies, our conversation swerved towards Customer Experience and how Japanese, be it an individual, a shop or an organization give value to any customer.

He quickly said, “Do you know how Japanese treat their customers? For them, customer is the God”. I immediately retorted, “What is so great in that? Even in India we have shop keepers treating customers as kings and ensure that they are always happy”. With my insane reply, my friend laughed at me and started throwing some interesting accounts of customer experiences in Japan.

“Let me narrate some of my experiences and then start your conversation”, he said and further added; “Suppose you go to a shop to buy an item, which is worth few pennies. Unfortunately, you notice that you have a higher denomination note (say Rs.100/-) to buy a small item, which is worth just Rs.5/- Since, you need the item badly, you go ahead to purchase the item and give him the hundred rupee note. So, what reply would you get? He just puts a frown on his face and expresses his inability to give you the change. He doesn’t even bother if you leave his shop just because you are unable to render the exact change. Isn’t it? I am sure almost 8 of the 10 shop keepers here would do the same thing, putting you in an embarrassing situation”.

“So, do you know what happens in Japan when you are in a similar situation?” My friend questioned. He further continued, “In Japan, if you just happen to visit even a small shop, the shop keeper bows at you out of respect and ensures that you get all the attention as if you are the only customer for his shop to buy an item, irrespective of how small an item could be. And assuming that your item is worth few pennies and you happen to give a big denomination note, he never grumbles and goes all the way to ensure that you get the required change – all this with a smile. Moreover, even if the item that you might be searching is not available in the shop, he goes all the way to ensure you get it. And the bottom line is he never lets you go disappointed, whatever may be. Now do you love to come to that shop again and again?” My friend questioned. I replied in the affirmative and was just lost in thoughts about this wonderful customer experience.

We talk about big technologies and modern CRM applications without realizing that we are losing out on the emotional aspects of the customer touch points. Of what use technology, when we just take our customers for granted, without understanding what they really want. After all, a happy customer is the one who brings more business to any business entity – be it a small shop or a big organization. And Japanese have really proved this point to the world – inbuilt in their psyche to gauge the pulse of the customers.

With these thoughts in my mind, we quietly retired to our homes and thanked my friend for sharing such wonderful experiences about Japan.

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