Customer Experiences in Japan: Right On The Money

Chris and I are working on an interesting project helping a client provide transformation technology to the hospitality industry.

We recently spent a week in Japan, a country known for their hospitality.

Our week abroad has provided us insights about where North American businesses can improve their customer experiences.

Here are my top 3 tips for you:

1. Language support. Almost every business we visited had some support for English. In Kyoto, they had a separate line up for foreign visitors for the taxi line, all hotels had English speaking staff and restaurants had menus with pictures or plastic fake food on display, or English menus. The local trains and subways made announcements in Japanese and English. Ticket kiosks had buttons to press for multiple languages, and businesses advertised in both Japanese and English. Other major international centers are not nearly as well-equipped for foreign tourists. For example, Miami is a major hub for Spanish speaking buyers, yet may of the restaurants I go to don’t offer a Spanish menu, and many businesses don’t offer any services or language support for South Americans.

  • Why not have a copy of your services in 2-3 key languages?
  • How about showing pictures of your offerings?
  • Can’t your payment processing both be programmed to support a few languages at a time?
  • Does your support desk or customer service desk offer support in the few key languages that your customers speak?

2. Automation. We ate at 2 restaurants where the ordering process was completely automated. There was a tablet on your table, you selected the items from pictures and descriptions (English was offered), could customize your options and the food arrived by a runner. As we kept ordering (the Yakatori was delicious!) the tablet kept track of the total of our bill, and the per person charge. If we needed a server there was an “easy button” on the table we could press and the server showed up immediately. This got me thinking:

  • How can you make doing business with you easier? The process at this restaurant was so fun and easy, we stayed longer, ate more, and certainly consumed more beer!
  • I’m certain this restaurant was able to strip costs from their operation as they could reduce the number of servers without reducing the customer experience. In the highly competitive, and expensive restaurant business in Tokyo, improving profits is critical. Where can you apply automation to reduce your costs?

3. Specialization. The best food experiences we had, regardless of price point, were at those restaurants that specialized in a particular food. We ate at places that only served Kobe beef on the grill, had a set Shabu Shabu menu, were 100% seafood, or had one menu option to choose from. These places were all booked months in advance, required reservation or had long lines all day. I’ve experienced this in Paris and Chicago in Michelin starred restaurants but never at more moderate eateries. Not surprisingly, the specialists prepared the best food. It’s clear that buyers are interested in doing business with specialists as they assume (rightly so) that the specialist will provide a better experience.

[bctt tweet=”Sellers in all categories can adopt this specialists approach to boost their success.” username=”EngageColleen”]

  • Specialize in a specific application of your product.
  • Specialize in a specific vertical or geographic market.
  • Specialize in a specific set of products and services. Perhaps offering too many options to your market reduces the appeal and value of your core offering?

You’ve heard me say that selling is no longer B2B or B2C, and that it’s now only B2All. Consumer buying practices are dominating business buying decisions. Sellers of all products and services can’t afford to ignore the trends that the hospitality sectors are embracing if they want to continue to attract and delight their buyers.

Ease of use, automation, and specialization are three trends that are Right On The Money TM.

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