Customer Service Experience

Japan’s “rainy season” doesn’t disappoint. A constant drizzle characterized our last day of outings over the Tokyo landscape.
Much of the morning was spent at the Ginza Apple store where we had a memorable customer service experience. As those who know me well will attest, I am an Apple fan. Japan also defines customer service at a level not generally experienced elsewhere in the world. So I approached our coming encounter at the Apple store with high expectations. But even I was taken aback by the extraordinary positive experience.
First, I did make a purchase …. but not for me ;-(.
Keiko and I purchased an iPad2 for her parents to thank them for the generous hospitality and care we have received on our many visits to Japan. Without question, her mother will almost exclusively use the device. We made the decision after seeing how mush she enjoyed using my iPad during the visit. Clearly, older Japanese (as American) consumers are a primary target for the device. (As I write this, Keiko and her Mom are taking the iPad on a test drive and using Skype for face-to-face conversations. I suspect it will bring great joy to them both when we return home.)
Now back to customer service point. Since Keiko would need to explain everything to her Mom in Japanese and she does not have an iPad of her own, we asked if someone could give her some assistance. We were escorted upstairs and over two hours later she had been helped in getting the device activated and set up, learned how to use every standard application and feature (and a few from the App Store) as well as a host of useful techniques. In observing the other Apple reps and customers in the room, I realized we were not getting “special” treatment. Whatever the product, each customer was offered an unbelievable amount of time and assistance.
I often tell my marketing and international business students about customer service in Japan. The customer is not the “king”, they are a “god”. The Apple encounter, while extraordinary in some respects, is replicated, with very rare exception, in almost every consumer experience.
A powerful marketing story.
The rest of the story? I am planning to get Keiko an iPad2 for her coming birthday!

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