Recently I asked a business colleague if she would mind looking over a draft of a book I’m working on that deals with business relationships. She agreed to do so and then shared with me some thoughts comparing how things are done in Japan as opposed to here in the US. With her permission, here are Rochelle’s thoughts. I believe they show both the differences in how we think as well as some ways we can do things much better.
The Japanese are masters of Value-added service. Some of the more ingenous methods to entice customers and build up a loyal following with them include:
– supermarkets and drug stores make it a point to call or visit elderly customers if they do not call in orders or drop by the store during their usual time. Many of these elderly people live alone in a home and not in old folks homes so the shopkeepers have taken it on themselves to look after them.
– bakeshops, delis, and other specialty food stores drop prices on all merchandise to as much as 80% close to the end f the business day to finish off the day’s overstock — instead of disposing of them in the trash. This also gives the chance for people with smaller food budgets to sample premium, specialty goods without breaking the bank.
– repair shops and garages offer discount vouchers to customers for filling out a survey form — mostly about how satisfied (or dissatisfied) they were with their services, their prices, and other concerns.
– Japanese stores — especially those that sell specialty foods meant for gifts and souvenirs, gifts, or flowers, wrap their products in beautiful paper nice enough to be given as is, without the need for additional wrapping paper. This shows that the store is proud of its good reputation, and that customers are happy for others to know that they shop at such a quality establishment.
– Japanese retailers love creating seasonal products that feature local produce. For example, if a particular town specializes in producing mikan or Japanese oranges, the town would hold festivals while the fruit was in season. They would welcome tourists, and then sell them specialty products made from mikan — from preserves and jams to skin care products and shampoos. It’s a good way to use up the product to prevent spoilage, as well as bring in extra income for the community above and beyond just the production and sale of the original product.
– even getting rid of overstock becomes a value-added service. Instead of marking everything down and dumping it into a sales bin, Japanese shops pack assorted goods into a nice, sealed paper bag and sell it for a low flat rate that is far less than its original value (usually JPY 5000 or USD 50 and up, depending on the store).
Since the paper bag is sealed, buyers do not know exactly what they are getting until they open the bag — but usually, the total original value of the products is far above the selling price, most customers are happy with their purchases and rarely return anything.
Like the emphasis of the book, the building of personal instead of business relationships takes precedence, and as a result the business relationship that eventually develops is more reliable and less superficial than “nommal” business relationships.
I’m not sure about others but to me, this offers some interesting ideas on how we can do things differently and better
Have a great day!