Made in Japan: How the Japanese do great service - FP Advance

Made in Japan: How the Japanese do great service

BY brett

Made in Japan: How the Japanese do great service | FP Advance

You’ve been ‘omotenashi’d

I read a great blog from Seth Godin recently on service. It was about the Japanese word ‘omotenashi’. (I’ve linked to the full version at the end so you can check it out yourself)

Here’s what the website had to say:

‘Omotenashi’ is hard to define, but Japanese use it to describe what they believe is their unique approach to hospitality. ‘Omotenashi’ involves the subjugation of self in service to a guest, without being ‘servile’. Anticipating needs is at the heart of the concept; and it is certainly fair to say that in Japan, acting on others’ needs without being asked to do so is at the height of savvy. If, in the course of a service encounter in Japan, you’ve ever been left thinking “How did they think of that?”, you’ve probably been ‘omotenashi’d’.

All too often, businesses that I deal with, inside and outside of Financial Services, deliver me a service that, to be honest, I’m certain they would resent experiencing themselves.

For example:

  • Standing too long at the ‘Wait Here To Be Seated’ sign in a restaurant or cafe.
  • Waiting at home for the repair person to arrive within the allotted window, only for them to fail to show at all, or arrive several hours later than planned.
  • A tradesperson working at your home for a scheduled week of work, just doesn’t turn up one day, with no call, text or email to let you know in advance.

We’ve all been there.

Applying ‘omotenashi’

A few weeks ago I wrote about two very specific aspects of your service standards; how the phone is answered and how you respond to client queries. To be honest we could apply the omotenashi approach to those, as well as a multitude of other touch points in the client journey.

Here are a few others for starters:

  • Your website – is it simple and easy to navigate?
  • Making an enquiry – is it responded to promptly and courteously?
  • First client meeting – does it challenge the prospective client and excite them?
  • Fact finding and data collection – is the process good for your firm, or good for the client?
  • When money is being invested – is there a regular stream of communication letting the client know what is going on? Or do they end up ringing you to find out?
  • Once the client is onboarded – is there a final call from the adviser or business owner to welcome them to the firm?

By taking some time to think a little more about how you treat people at each step of your process, you could seriously differentiate yourself in the marketplace. And it’s not difficult.

Tech savvy

In most financial planning firms, the client can’t see a snapshot of all their investments online, or via an app. I know there are players out there, like, that allow advisers to provide that sort of access. However, it’s still not commonplace, which seems nuts in 2017.

The key to using technology effectively is to ensure that it adds value to the customer experience, rather than simply implementing it to lower costs. You might achieve both outcomes, but you have to start with the client experience at the front of your mind. Any savings are a bonus.

In Seth’s blog he makes the point about effective and ineffective use of technology, using airlines as the example (I’ve linked at the bottom if you want to read the whole thing):“In almost everything they do, the airline experience today is inferior to what it was on Pan Am in 1972. Every time the airline gets involved, their efforts to cut costs exceed their commitment to service.

On the other hand, in the ways that the airlines have given passengers control of their choices (seeing available flights, for example, or choosing their own onboard entertainment), satisfaction has had a chance to increase.”

A ‘nice’ little earner

At each touchpoint in the client journey, is there something ‘nice’ you can do to make it just a little more enjoyable and memorable.

Some simple examples I’ve seen:

  • Fresh flowers in the office at reception and in meeting rooms
  • Classical music playing softly in a meeting room before the adviser joins the meeting (letting clients settle)
  • Staff members meeting clients with an umbrella at the car on a rainy day

The most enjoyable interactions are with staff who are nice people and client focused.

I remember some clients of mine in Australia turned up at 10:00am and mentioned they hadn’t had breakfast to Brenda, my receptionist. While they were waiting she quickly cobbled together a few crackers and some cheese. It was nothing fancy, but they never forgot the effort she went to. Omotenashi.

Communicating more simply

Most communication I see flowing into and out of Financial Planning firms is either paper or email.

Who writes letters anymore in any other area of their lives? For lots of clients, communication should be faster, shorter and simpler. What’s wrong with a quick text?

Better still, as part of the initial engagement process, ask clients their preferred method/methods of communication and then use those.

Sending a video answer to a question

My wife did an online course recently and was on the VIP version. When she posted a question to the online Facebook group, the course host answered her personally on video and simply posted it to the site. It was shot on an iPhone or iPad quickly and simply.

Have you tried sending your clients a video reply to one of their queries? It’s faster, simpler and more personal than sending them more words.

At your service

We’re in the service business. Ensuring that you and your team spend enough time thinking about and delivering a great service experience is vital. Don’t let yourself fall into the trap of believing that your technical skills and delivery are the prime drivers of client satisfaction; they’re not.

Could you use the concept of omotenashi to improve your client service culture?

Give it a try and let me know how you go.

“How you treat people at each step of your process could seriously differentiate you in the market.”


Further Reading:

Omotenashi and the service split

Seth Godin

It is possible to deliver amazing service without being servile.


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ABOUT BRETT DAVIDSON When you work with FP Advance you work with me, Brett Davidson, directly. My motto is ‘advise better, live better’ and I practice what I preach. I’m straight talking and get to the heart of an issue quickly. There’s no beating about the bush, just a focus on helping things improve. Ask my clients – what I teach works.