Japan prides itself on its standard of service. There, it’s easy to find staff in shops and restaurants who are unfailingly polite. When Japanese cleaners are finished with the train, they bow as a demonstration of pride and diligence. These displays of service, while common in Japan, approach the level of bespoke attention in other parts of the world.
What’s Japan’s secret sauce? What valuable insights can we take away about customer satisfaction? More urgently, what has this got to do with boosting sales figures? It all starts with one word — omotenashi.
What is omotenashi and how it impacts CX
Omotenashi is a Japanese word which generally refers to “hospitality.” It consists of two elements: “Omote” means public face, an image you wish to present to outsiders, while “Nashi” means nothing — together, the word communicates service that is delivered sincerely and honestly from the heart, with no pretence and nothing expected in return.
Workers in Japan’s customer experience (CX) economy have embraced this philosophy for centuries. Omotenashi promotes an empathy-focused culture and puts the customers' needs first. This single-minded pursuit of omotenashi enables Japanese organisations to set high CX standards at all stages in the customer journey.
Customer experience can make or break sales
The reality could not be more different elsewhere. APAC consumers feel customer service is an afterthought. American consumers “consistently perceive that customer service is generally bad and even possibly becoming worse,” according to Harvard Business Review. These sentiments are at odds with many companies' pledges to deliver great customer service.
A CX strategy that isn't rooted in a deep understanding of customer expectations runs the risk of becoming mere lip service. Customer journey mapping can help to align efforts with customer needs.
When CX is delivered authentically, it positively impacts the consumer’s perception of customer service and the bottom line. Close to 70% of Japan’s GDP has come consistently from its services industry for the last decade. It’s a testament to the crucial role the culture of service plays in its economy.
A consumer survey from PwC supports CX’s direct role in steering buying behaviour:
Customer feedback reveals a willingness to spend more — up to a 16% price premium — on products and services if the company provides a great customer experience.
Bad consumer experiences, on the other hand, are costly. Even beloved brands will see 59% of their loyal customers walk away after several bad experiences and 17% after just one bad experience, causing customer retention to dip.
A powerful secret elite salespeople don’t want you to know
In most traditional setups, there’s a clear-cut division of labour between sales and customer service. But if you observe any high-performing salesperson enough, you’d realise the face of sales today more closely resembles that of a proactive customer service representative.
Why? Consumer expectations have evolved. Customers expect good service from everyone, not just the customer service department. To close more sales, salespeople need to be adaptable and know when to step up, putting on their customer service hats at the right time if they want a competitive advantage.
Surprisingly, closing sales is a relatively small part of a salesperson’s day-to-day job. According to Forbes, sales representatives only spend 35% of their time selling. The other 65% of their time is generally spent on nurturing client relationships. They build CX by making phone calls, sending follow-up emails and scheduling meetings. They listen to customers' concerns, address their needs and consistently check in to ensure satisfied customers stay with the company.
3 lessons salespeople can learn to sell better without “selling”
The omotenashi ethos offers many lessons for salespeople today, especially those in the consumer services industry. Companies should recognise that omotenashi can take root anywhere. By planting the seeds of an omotenashi culture within sales teams, organisations can effectively implement CX empathy programmes that promote these principles:
Nurture clients based on a relationship of equals
Unlike Western cultures, where the host or person serving the guest is seen as subservient to the customer, omotenashi is a non-dominant relationship. Even though the customer is highly respected, omotenashi is practised as if the server and customer are on the same level — almost like family friends.
Pro tip: Your sales pitch doesn’t have to sound salesy. Approach prospects like you would a close friend. Skip the formalities and send a personal voice message with a specific reason for getting in touch. Maybe your customer couldn't afford your product in the past, but you’d like to tell them about a new financing plan that would help them now. Whether your potential customers are interested in your offering or not, you would have made an emotional connection, and most people will be touched that you cared enough to reach out.
Whispir allows you to create unique voice messages or text your audience and have it relayed via spoken voice.
Anticipate what is best for your clients before they ask for it
The operative word here is “anticipate,” not “assume.” Omotenashi emphasises utmost consideration of others, taking into account multiple potential outcomes to help customers feel comfortable and at ease. This requires going the extra mile to understand your customer, so you can proactively plan for what they might want or need. The payoff comes when you successfully delight them with a solution before they even realise they needed something.
Pro tip: Prior to any initial sales meeting, you can send your customers a simple survey to collect key information using Whispir’s rich messaging capabilities. Insights gathered can then be used to help you customise your sales pitch to fit their exact needs. Doing so helps you to leave a positive impression, so even if the first session doesn’t result in a sale, you can take what you’ve learnt to create a stronger follow-up.
Whispir’s rich messaging capabilities help you to create simple microsites to engage your prospects before and after any sales meetings.
Personalisation and flexibility are the keys to exceptional service
Most customer service training caters for a variety of customer scenarios with a prescribed series of actions to take. However, true omotenashi service isn’t afraid to go off-script. It empowers service staff with the flexibility to imbue CX encounters with a personal touch for more positive customer experiences.
Pro tip: Your digital communications – SMS, WhatsApp, email, voice messaging, social media and more – work a lot harder for you when they’re personalised and seamlessly connected to rich message content. When you send people to unique microsites with content that is special to them, suddenly booking an appointment, watching a video, or engaging with an interactive map or tool is practically effortless.
Whispir’s template library and drag-and-drop editor make it easy for anyone to create personalised, interactive customer experiences.
Scaling CX with Whispir’s digital communications
CX is notoriously challenging to scale. It is typically a human resource-intensive activity, now exacerbated by the global shortage of workers. Service industries, such as hospitality and retail, are disproportionately affected by the labour crunch and struggle to meet rising CX expectations as they fight to stay in the black.
Organisations that turned to tech-based solutions have found success. Using Whispir’s digital communications platform, M1, a major telecommunications company in Singapore, succeeded in increasing customer response rates from 20% to 80% with a variety of communication channels, including targeted SMS, emails and interactive microsites.
M1 also significantly reduced reliance on manual labour, slashing the time it takes for its officers to complete each customer interaction. Most of all, Whispir helped to streamline communications across the entire organisation, empowering its senior executives and operational staff members with the visibility and confidence to do more for their customers.
The best customer experiences start with strong communications. Whispir helps you leverage digital communications to sharpen your customer experience strategy through different channels on one single platform. With two-way communication and omnichannel business technology at your fingertips, you won’t just be giving your customers a great experience, you’ll also give them reasons to champion your brand, be more loyal and share their experience with friends.
That’s something money can’t buy.