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High Five Bar in Japan.

As you can probably tell from last week’s post, The Devil is in the Details: Part 1, the overall Japanese customer service experience really made an impression on me. This week, I bring you another example of stellar customer service.

The Bar: A Manager Who Went the Extra Mile

In 2007, I took a job as a paint inspector in a local Japanese shipyard. As part of my inculcation to the company, we all went out to the bar after my first week of work. It was a small establishment, a quaint little set-up with dim lights, plush sofas, drunken karaoke, and beautiful bar-girls.

I ran out of cigarettes, so when I ordered my next drink, I asked the bartender – who turned out to be the owner – where the nearest cigarette machine was. He handed me my drink and took my money, but instead of handing me my change, immediately ran out the door.

Confused, I returned to my seat. A minute later, the man returned with the pack of cigarettes – opened, with one smoke already pulled half-way out – and politely handed the pack, as well as my change, to me. There’s a phrase for that – it’s called exceptional customer service!

Customer Service: Going the Extra Inch

You’ve heard the phrases before – you know, phrases like “going the extra mile” or “going above and beyond.” While those are nice clichés, and they certainly make a good point, customer service is even simpler than that. Going the extra inch is:

  • A smile
  • An open ear
  • A kind gesture
  • Common courtesy

Interestingly, I can’t begin to recount the number of times that I’ve walked into a gas station and asked for a pack of smokes, only to have the cashier all but throw the pack at me. I’m not asking for them to get down on one knee for me; I’m just asking for a little common courtesy (i.e. good customer service). Appreciation is a common customer service tool in Japan.

True, they may not be the owners of the company or the store. They may not even be management for the store, but the better impression they make, and the more satisfied the customers are, the better the company will do. In a sense, it’s in their best interest too. Their customer service skills indirectly affect their job security by inviting repeat customers.

I closing, the moral of these stories isn’t in any way to contrast Japanese business practices with American business practices directly; however, these stories do serve to illustrate how the small things can make a huge difference in a customer’s mind. Customer service in Japanese bars is based on hospitality, how can we service the customer?

Could I have walked fifteen feet down the alley to get my own cigarettes? I certainly could have. It would have taken literally no time or effort to do so, but that’s kind of the point. The owner knew that it wouldn’t take much time or effort. And with that simple, effortless gesture he made such a lasting impression that he instantly won me over as a customer. Seven years later and I’ll still gladly go back for a drink if I get the chance.

Created byWriter,  James Allen, james.r.allen2011@gmail.com.

Blog produced by Lisbeth Calandrino.

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