• Heini Noronen-Juhola

Omotenashi

Updated: Dec 9, 2021



In service businesses and functions it´s become normal to talk about and focus on the customer experience. The leaders are talking about how the customer is in the core of everything and the processes are being developed through the methods of service design. This is good, of course, but how is this implemented in real life?


There are very many kinds of service functions in the world. In public services the service providers are typically fulfilling the task that has been appointed to them in a law. They are trying to fulfil their task mostly in the least expensive way. In commercial services the end reason is to provide services that the end customer would be willing to pay for. Businesses are trying to create wow effects to promote their services. At the same time the goal is to make the work as cost efficient as possible. But does this include the mindset that creates the best kind of customer experience?


The examples of successful customer experience solutions can be found everywhere. In Finland the alcohol retail business is heavily regulated and the government owned monopoly Alko has transformed over the years from a rather grey booze shop to a wonderful and sparkling service provider. Or, on the private side, the service you can get from IKEA is very well thought and you feel like you are listened to and understood.


The list of miserable cases of customer experience is unfortunately long. We know services that have gone digital and it has made the whole service idea collapse. There´s a global digitalization fever and sometimes there is more will than skills. If you just get digital without the change leadership and the viewpoint of the customer service from every aspect, you fail.


Also, we know services which basically work fine, but if something goes wrong or if you´d like to get service out of their normal scope, you end up into a hollow situation. You, as the customer, are put into a box and if you try to do something outside the box, the organization can´t handle it. Unfortunately I´ve experienced this in the banking sector especially.


The customer service people are nice and they want to help you. But they have many times been trained to give certain answers and serve the way the company or function wants them to serve. To represent the organization and the organization policy. Question is, does this make sure that the experience from the service is the best possible for the customer?


In Japanese there is the expression "omotenashi". It could be translated as "hospitality", but really it´s all about creating the environment of trust, relaxation and respect to the service. Omotenashi in practice means taking one extra step further to serve the customer in every customer experience process or situation. For example Japan Airlines is using this ideology in their service design very successfully. They want to make sure that the customer has got all the service and answers to all of their needs and questions in every situation. For the company the customer´s satisfaction means more than doing things by the book.


Following the omotenashi set of mind for example in the public sector, if you have a regulative task to fulfil, you can also have the mindset of respectful and service oriented customer treatment. If you want. Processes can be polished with improved service design and the service culture can be trained further. Or, in big businesses if you work only through Excel and not the customer needs, your way of focusing on your customer may get arrogant.


Customers love functions and companies that treat them with respect. If the customers feel like they are understood and listened to, they come back. If the customers feel like they should play a certain role in the game that has been set to them, they go next time somewhere else. Arrogance and indifference kill businesses.


Omotenashi is something that every service function and company should have as a base line. When the customer feels that the service provider really wants to do everything they ever can in every situation for him/her, it´s the best kind of business. It´s the best kind of customer experience. And in the end it´s the most profitable way to open the customer´s wallet as well.



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