Thursday, October 24, 2013

Omotenashi: The Art of Delivering Excellent Client Service

The Japanese term Omotenashi is a concept we Americans have a hard time defining. Based in the hospitality industry, Omotenashi defines the positive relationship between host and guest, when the host anticipates the guest’s needs in advance, and ideally before the guest even asks.

What is Omotenashi?

Think about a time when you have been pleasantly surprised by wonderful service at a restaurant. The waiter fills your water glass without being asked. Later in the meal, the waiter hands you a new napkin because yours has slipped to the floor – you had not even noticed. He does not hover. And never interrupts you and your companions in the middle of a lively conversation to ask “How is everything?” He has taken care of “everything” – he doesn’t need to ask. That’s a version of Omotenashi.

The Japanese cosmetics company, Shiseido, publishes the Shiseido Beauty Consultant Omotenashi Credo, its employee code of conduct. Shiseido Beauty Consultants are trained to treat customers in stores every day with the Omotenashi spirit, which is not just about making customers look beautiful, but involves providing consideration and imagination as beauty professionals. Shiseido also conducts customer questionnaires every six months to improve customer service.

My personal experience with Omotenashi occurred just recently.  I had to cancel travel plans at the last minute because of a family emergency.  A week later, I reached out to Airbnb to see if there might be a refund.  Because of the nature of the emergency, I could not alert the host in advance that I was cancelling my reservation, which goes against the published rules. But there was a reference to extenuating circumstances, so thought I might just ask.

I received a personal email – not too surprising, because of course they have my name. The email expressed sympathy for the emergency, refunded my payment in full, even the (published) non-refundable service fee. I was quite satisfied with this response. They went on to also offer me a voucher to use for my next Airbnb reservation.  Responding to my needs is good service.  Providing more, which I did not ask for – that’s Omotenashi.

How is Omotenashi relevant to digital branding?

Here at DBE, we are embracing the spirit of Omotenashi. We are new to this philosophy, so we have identified levels of service we must attain in order to provide true Omotenashi to our clients:
  1. Provide great service. Our clients tell us that we are providing great service, and that we respond “beautifully”– we are swift and accurate in replying to their needs. We also conduct regular client surveys, both written and in-person, to ensure that we are meeting their needs. Based on learnings from Shiseido, we are on the path to Omotenashi.
  2. Build trust that comes from demonstrating knowledge and commitment. On the path to Omotenashi, it’s not enough to truly love what we do and to be great at it—we must unceasingly learn our clients businesses so that we can apply our knowledge seamlessly to their needs.  For us to be truly great at what we do, we must first really love our work – and be good at it. Then we can share our expertise with clients. Clients understand that we are digital branding experts; we can help our clients succeed in ways they may – or may not – have only imagined.
  3. Attain Omotenashi.  To reach of the highest level of Omotenashi, we need to know our clients’ businesses so well and to be so expert in our own that we can literally anticipate their needs, to deliver on issues and challenges that they haven’t had time to fully realize are there.  Only when we can anticipate challenges and pro-offer solutions before the request is even formulated by the client will we be evidencing the purest form of Omotenashi. 
From what our clients are telling us, we’re on the right path.  How is your organization delivering on the Omotenashi journey for your clients?  Let’s explore ways DBE can help.

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