On a recent trip to Japan I was flabbergasted by the quality of customer service. I knew Japan’s great reputation, and I had high expectations, yet they were exceeded every single day. And boy did my credit card feel the full front of this effect.
Search the internet and you’ll find millions of people sharing their anecdotes of the unprecedented kindness they received from strangers in Tokyo, and I have my fair share of these stories too. A business man in the lobby of my hotel helped me purchase a stamp and then took it upon himself to post the card. Outside the Ryōgoku Sumo Hall after a sumo wrestling tournament I was singled out of a crowd of thousands and given a traditional bag of souvenirs by a fellow spectator. The woman explained to me that she had two and handed me a beautifully gift-wrapped bag of sumo chocolates, snacks and china bowls. Talk about a random act of kindness.
But what really charmed me was the Tokyo shopping experience… and how much of my savings I was willing to part with in the Mitsukoshi Department Store.
I am still embarrassed by the amount of money I spent on a designer hand-knitted jumper. But I don’t feel any of the usual buyer’s remorse or guilt. Why? Because the whole shopping experience was so beautiful I have nothing but happy memories of the day. From the staff who wrapped our umbrellas in plastic covers as we walked in, to being greeted by everyone as we walked around, and the actual purchase; everyone made me feel special and looked after. The woman who helped me took the clothes I had selected, placed them in the changing rooms, took them off the hanger and handed them to me. She stayed nearby to help with sizing, complimented me and then kept my selection behind the counter until I was ready to purchase.
At one point during that fruitful-shopping day, I went to make a call and came across a message I had sent a friend a month ago after being frustrated with Perth’s department store alternative to Ginza; “Customer service is dead, this is why everyone shops online.” Yes it was a little dramatic but after spending 15 minutes trying to find someone to take my money for the suitcase I had chosen without any help, I was a little disheartened. Reading this text message while standing the stunning department store I was struck with how different I had felt a month ago standing in Perth. A mere 30 days ago I was determined that everything I wanted I would just buy online because the in-store shopping experience left a lot to be desired.
Sure online shopping is convenient and cheap, but this trip to Ginza opened my eyes to a new level of customer service that’s the future of retail. Was my jumper available online? Yes. Was it convenient getting to Ginza? Well there was a snow storm in Tokyo that day, but I was determined.
And here’s the simple, probably unsurprising moral of the story: if my experience is anything to go by, people will be willing to walk through a blizzard and spend %*$&!# yen on a jumper, if staff are courteous, helpful, and kind to you. And it’s as simple as that.