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The Marketist Blog

The Marketist Blog

Four Japanese-Inspired Service Tips That Will WOW Your Customers

We recently got back from an ah-mazing trip to Japan to visit my brother, sister-in-law and new, adorable, perfect, baby genius niece (hey, I’m a first-time doting aunt!). From the scenery to the sushi, we loved every minute of our time in Okinawa. However, there are many cultural differences between Americans and the Japanese so I really didn’t know what to expect (language barrier and all). But I came away pleasantly delighted by their service and convinced that American businesses need to take a cue from our friends in the East.

In the U.S., bad customer service is ingrained in our society. We now expect it. From that second we get on the phone with the cable company, the verbal boxing gloves come on. Author and marketing expert, Peter Shankman, said,

Focus on treating customers one level above crap. Do that, and you're going to create thrilled customers who want to come back to you. Go even above that, and you'll have customers for life who will take a bullet for you.”

Isn’t it sad that this is the level that American customer service has stooped to?

However, lucky for you, I come bearing a gift from the East that can help your company buck this trend!  Here are four simple ways you can perfect the art of Japanese-level customer service:


Anticipate a need


On our flight from Naha to Tokyo, I needed to get some work done and pulled out my MacBook. Shortly into the three-hour flight, the standard drink service came through. When the flight attendant handed me my drink, it had a lid and straw covering the top. At first I was confused why she would do such a thing, but then quickly realized that she noticed I was working on my laptop and didn’t want the water to spill on my device.

My mind was blown that such a simple act of consideration was shown. Doing something simple and unexpected can make a huge impact on the way customers perceive your brand.


Let the little things go

We visited a charming little area called the Yomitan Pottery Village to shop for authentic Okinawan gifts to bring home.  When I was purchasing an item, I was using up the rest of our Yin but came up about 100 Yen short (close to $1 USD). I sent my husband to bum the extra money from my sister-in-law and told the store owner that he was getting get the balance. She looked at me with a smile, gave me the item and said in broken English “We ok.” – meaning she told me to forget the extra dollar I owed.  

She gave me the benefit of the doubt that I wasn’t trying to rip her off. And the kindness didn’t hurt either.


Show appreciation

Japan Airlines Boeing 777-346 JA752J Oneworld Take off at Nagoya R/W18 "Thanks for boarding" by All JAL Ground Staff Nagoya - Central Japan International Airport (Centrair)

While at the Tokyo Haneda and Naha, Okinawa airports, we noticed that the ground crew did something that we’ve never in our lives seen before. They bowed to the aircraft on its way out and waved goodbye to the passengers. What

Although bowing isn’t ingrained in our culture, there are many equally as simple ways to show your customers appreciation.



Simple enough, right?  Every airline ticket counter and every waiter greeted us with a welcoming smile. They also always said “thank you” in English, which is something that certainly wasn’t required on their part.


So what is your company doing to go above and beyond for your customers? Have you visited other countries who put our poor customer service way of life here in America to shame? Let us know in the comments!