I mentioned in my previous article that there seems to be a monozukuri (literally “making things”) of
customer service in Japan. This may seem
an odd way of putting it, as monozukuri is
often used to mean that manufacturing, and not the service sector, is given the
most importance in society. In this case
I am using “monozukuri” to mean
“craftsmanship” – a pride in using ones hands to create something of high
I remember when I was a little girl living in Sendai, coming
home from school one day to find that the builders who were repairing our
strange old ijinkan (purpose built
for foreigners) house, had made tiny origami cranes out of some of my stamp
collection. I was quite cross that my
stamps had been ruined but my parents were delighted that these rough handed
men could create something so delicate and fiddly.
I had learnt origami at kindergarten in Japan although I was
never very good at it, lacking the patience to be as precise in the folding as
is necessary to get the best result.
Nonetheless it has given me a great appreciation of the skill of the
assistants wrapping my purchases in Japanese department stores – especially at
this time of year, as I make such a terrible mess of wrapping Christmas presents!
I also learnt Japanese dance as a child. Along with origami and the many other arts widely
taught in Japan such as tea ceremony and kendo, there was emphasis not only on the
way the body moves but how objects are handled – learning to fold a kimono or
open a fan - which I am sure influences the way customer service is so gracefully
and skilfully delivered in Japan.
Equivalent skills are not widely taught in British schools,
so not only is it rare in the UK for gift wrapping to be offered but when it
is, it is done badly. Usually you have
to ask, and sometimes there is a charge.
The only shop I have been to recently where gift wrapping was free, and
beautifully done, was Floris, a family owned traditional perfumers in Jermyn
Street, London. The assistant was not
one of the family, as far as I know, but seemed to have pride serving me well,
and was very knowledgeable about the products on offer.
This pride in being knowledgeable about the products is true
of another retail chain which is consistently praised for its good service - Majestic,
the wine merchants. Majestic
consciously emphasises customer service as being a key value of its brand, and
supports this through plenty of training for its staff. It probably helps that the customers Majestic
attracts are wine enthusiasts, and therefore more likely to appreciate the
knowledge and service that Majestic offers.
to be two-way to work. Both the provider
and the customer need to appreciate the craftsmanship and knowledge involved. British customers are not as well educated as
Japanese customers in this appreciation and therefore British service providers
do not feel much pride in what they do.
This article originally appeared in the December 28th 2009 edition of the Nikkei Weekly