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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Irrashaimase and Omotenashi - The True Meaning of Service Japanese Style

I had a wonderful vacation in Tokyo and Hakone this year. I miss the orderly and sheer volume of commuters in Shinjuku train station  
and the natural beauty and hot springs of Hakone but the real essence of customer service. I noticed this many times but came into clarity when we spent a few days in Hakone at a Ryokans style hotel.

Irrashaimase means welcome in japanese and it is stated to every shopper that comes into a store. Now the fancier stores in Tokyo will have kimono clad women bowing down and welcoming you as well. It becomes very authentic and genuine in a smaller or artist run retail store. You stumble into a little shop where and are greeted warmly with "Irrashaimase". She takes time to explain how this village is well known to make wooden boxes and has been for several generations. She again thanks you for your purchase while she takes extra effort to wrap your purchase in elaborate paper, ribbons and tissue.

Omotenashi is the art of customer service in the hospitality industry and it is treating guests that goes beyond meeting their needs and expectations. It also includes anticipating their needs in advance and is usually done in a very seamless way. 

Let us use the Ryokans stay as an example. Hakone is in a national park thjat includes several volcano structures. This release a sulphur gas is evident in the cable car ride over the "Valley of Hell" but also in the abundance of hot mineral springs. These family owned Ryokans all feature the hot spring bath. OK as you check in the hotel, slippers are waiting along with a cup of hot tea. They also provide a small cool cotton towel to wipe hands and face. Now that is refreshing!

Your bags are immediately brought to your room and you will find a crisp cotton kimono to wear around the property as well. 

The owners will then offer to show you around the property and explain to you how things work. We have a lovely outdoor area facing the pond with koi fish and a waterfall. We have a lovely garden with a trail to wonder through. Meals are served Japanese style and oh by the way the you do not wear a bathing suit in the springs and please scrub thoroughly before entering. Thank You and enjoy! . When you get back to your room there is a little dish of snacks. The belief system is that this is a personalized service as a normal offering.

Think about how you want to treat your customers

Customer Service has become the biggest differentiation in retail today. So quickly forgotten but so easy to implement.

"Excuse me but can you tell me where your Organic Almonds are?"  Duhh! maybe its in aisle 5? I think


"Excuse me but can you tell me where your Organic Almonds are? Sure, please follow me ....and the person walks with you to make sure you find them in the aisle....that is customer service whatever style you want to use.

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