CX Passport

The one with Omotenashi - George Nagatsuka - Founder Discover Xciting Japan E118

May 23, 2023 Rick Denton Season 2 Episode 118
CX Passport
The one with Omotenashi - George Nagatsuka - Founder Discover Xciting Japan E118
Show Notes Transcript

🎤🎞️“The one with Omotenashi” with George Nagatsuka - Founder Discover Xciting Japan in CX Passport Episode 118🎧What’s in the episode?...


CHAPTERS

0:00 Introduction

2:45 Omotenashi - What drives the Japanese customer service focus?

7:33 Comparing Japanese to US/Western Customer Service

11:31 Unique Japanese travel experiences

16:26 First Class Lounge

21:54 How does GE process experience influence CX today?

24:49 Variability of the Asian customer experience

28:38 DiscoverXcitingJapan

31:27 Contact info and closing


If you like CX Passport, I have 4 quick requests:

✅Subscribe to the CX Passport YouTube channel youtube.com/@cxpassport

✅Sign up for the weekly CX Passport newsletter www.cxpassport.com

✅Leave a review on your favorite podcast site so others can find the show

✅Share your thoughts about the episode in the comments 


Hosted by Rick Denton “I believe the best meals are served outside and require a passport”


Watch at youtube.com/@cxpassport or listen on any of your favorite audio podcast apps 

Show notes and other helpful CX & Total VOC content at www.cxpassport.com



Episode resources:

Spirit of Japanese Customer Service: Omotenashi

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/george-nagatsuka/

Website: https://discoverxcitingjapan.com

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/discoverxcitingjapan

Rick Denton:

What is it about Japanese culture that creates such a focus on customer service?

George Nagatsuka:

One of the other other concepts is Omotenashi. And you may have heard about this. If not, it's a unique approach to customer service. That's based on anticipating the needs of the customer or client, and providing them with the highest level of service. That's possible. And okay, above and beyond their expectations.

Rick Denton:

You're listening to CX Passport, the show about creating great customer experiences with a dash of travel talk. Each episode we’ll talk with our guests about great CX, travel...and just like the best journeys, explore new directions we never anticipated. I'm your host Rick Denton. I believe the best meals are served outside and require a passport. Let's get going. In Asia several times, and yet until late 2022, I've actually never had the opportunity to travel to Japan. It just it didn't hit my radar either in my travel life or my professional life, then suddenly with a son who chose to study in Kyoto for a semester, and with a family trip to proceed that suddenly, it feels like I'm getting more and more exposure to that great country. Perhaps it's you know, like when you decide to buy a car and how you see that car brand on the road all the time. Or perhaps there's just a newfound energy and focus on Japan. Either way, I am so excited today to welcome the first CX passport guest from Japan, George Nagatsuka. George has been in the Land of the Rising Sun for 29 years currently living in Tokyo. You might not expect this though. George is a transplant to Japan from New Jersey. Her food discussion might range from miso to me balls, and I love all of it. A graduate of the US Naval Academy George spent a significant portion of his career at GE. That's right, the legendary process discipline of GE, it's gonna be something I want to explore with George later in the show, how will process inform his views on customer experience today. Now, George serves as an entrepreneur helping Japanese businesses improve a particular part of their customer experience, especially the portion that tourists will experience. I'm eager to hear George's thought on the Japanese approach to the customer, the traveler, the tourist. Let's also make sure we get the travel wisdom of somebody with almost 30 years in the country. George, welcome to CX passport

George Nagatsuka:

Hi Rick . And thank you for having me on your show.

Rick Denton:

George and thank you for staying up late, folks. It's pretty late there in Japan as we're recording this. And I appreciate George carving out a late evening, early morning. Time to talk with me today. So yeah, George, I mentioned this, my family and I took a trip to Japan over the 2022 holidays and my son is still there studying abroad. And my goodness, the experiences he's having are absolutely delightful. The trip was brilliant. We loved Japan. One thing in particular was really an all of this individual dedication to doing everything possible to serve the customer, the guest the passenger, what is it about Japanese culture that creates such a focus on customer service?

George Nagatsuka:

Yeah, well, that's interesting question. And actually, there's a few factors that I can think of that contribute to you know, the Japanese culture is focused on customer service. And the first thing that comes to mind is in general Japanese people value respect and cleanliness, right. And this is really tied closely tied to the hospitality concept that is projected. Now, if you understand Japan, traditionally, the the main religion here in Japan is Shinto. And based on the Shinto philosophies, and everything, cleanliness is very important. And so, you know, essentially the Japanese people, they want to give a very positive impression and not to leave a mess around their area, especially if they're out in the public spaces. Right. You know, this, this respect for cleanliness and public spaces extends to and interweaves into customer service. What I mean by that is, you know, the staff, they take a lot of understanding and pay close attention to the details and strive to, you know, provide a very high level comfortable environment for clients and customers. And one of the other other concepts is surrounding about almost Omotenashi...Omotenashi. And you may have heard about this. If not, it's a unique approach to customer service that's based on anticipating the needs of the customer or client, and providing them with the highest level of service. That's possible. And above and beyond their expectations, right. And this approach has been interweaved. And, and can be seen in many different industries, especially, as you mentioned in hotels or restaurants and the retail space.

Rick Denton:

That's I've never heard that term have say it for me one more time just to make sure I hear it right.

George Nagatsuka:

Omotenashi

Rick Denton:

Omotenashi. folks, I'll definitely get that in the This is your captain speaking. I want to thank you for listening show notes. Because I felt the concept you're describing, I didn't have a name for it. I hadn't heard the word for it. But I absolutely felt that desire to go over and above that desire to never leave a customer disappointed, even in the face of an impossible situation. It was it was New Year's Eve, someone was trying to help my family find a place to eat dinner and a New Year's Eve is a little different there and that it's more of a family oriented holiday. And so it's not a big restaurant and party holiday until New Year's Day at the temples. And I was blown away by how much effort the individual at the hotel put out for me trying to find a place when I wasn't even needing that I wasn't looking for it. I wasn't desiring it. She just happened to overhear and and so she to CX Passport today. We’ve now reached our cruising altitude so exhibited that spirit. And certainly the cleanliness you describe I absolutely experienced all across the country. I can't think of another country in the world where I would choose to use a public restroom at the train station, because those are the cleanest ones that are out there. And we seen the legendary stories of the Japanese soccer team at the World Cup as well. It is it is a great place from it. I think there's a lot that we could learn in customer experience and customer service individuals around the world, especially in the Western world, learning from our Japanese counterparts. I’ll turn that seatbelt sign off. <ding> While you’re getting comfortable, hit that Follow or Subscribe button in your favorite podcast app so you never miss an episode. I’d love it if you’d tell a friend about CX Passport and leave a review so that others can discover the show as well. Now, sit back and enjoy the rest of the episode. Let's let's expand on that a little bit more. So you live there now. And but I did mention that you grew up in the US. So you've got a perspective on both worlds. And I'm curious beyond what we've talked about here, what have you found to be really the main differences, but also the similarities between the Japanese approach to customer experience and the US or the western approach?

George Nagatsuka:

Well, the Japanese idea of customer service is, you know, it's a reflection of the company and the culture that they represent. And Japanese people, as I mentioned, have take a lot of pride in the work and they want to do well and go beyond the just satisfying the client or customer. And what they also want to be able to do is allow the customer to feel valued and appreciated. And, for example, in Japan is just with regards to like the employees personal if they try to chat or between staffs, while on duty, generally that's not that's frowned upon, and very discouraged. So, the whole point of me saying that is the Japanese staff is is there in the public, at the at any needs, to any moment to address any of the needs that the clients may have. And, you know, on the on the other end in the West customer service is often seen as a way to sort of make more sales, right, they try to satisfy but they're always looking for how to attract the customer come back and spend more money you know. So those are some of the similarities or differences. similarities. You know, they have have been Japanese have been very influenced with the Western ideologies and technologies especially since the war to a lot of those things have come in to Japan and have definitely influenced the culture and And, you know, I think both cultures, the Western and Japanese cultures do value very, very much on hard work, education and family. So those are, I think, some of the similarities and differences in terms of customer service.

Rick Denton:

Imagine and I realized what 29 years, there's, perhaps even the US sort of the specific memories of the like, have started to fade. But that spirit of wanting to create that sense of what is that I'm looking for loyalty, or just this delivery of great service so that the customer feels welcomed and warm and special and honored and respected, is a nuance and a difference as opposed to the we want our customers to feel welcomed and warmed and honored, so that they come back and spend money, it feels like there's an element of not just the authentic, I just want to do it to honor the customer feels very Japanese, as opposed to the Western where we may be thinking of our bottom lines. And I would imagine that there is still clearly a desire for profit, and clearly a desire for business results. It just may be from where the motivation comes to deliver customer service may be slightly different between the two cultures.

George Nagatsuka:

Yes, I think that is a great point and difference and the approach, right, so

Rick Denton:

let's go travel here for a second. I'm going to travel a little bit earlier in the show than I normally do. It's just partially because it just I just got back from there. I am still remarkably jealous of my son's experiences there as he uses Kyoto as a base but travels all over the country seeing the the snow and the what is it the snow festival out in the Sapporo area. And then seeing some wonderful shrines in the Hiroshima area and just what he's he's experienced there. Those are the things that we as a Westerner don't always get to experience right. We see our specific tours, and we're there for 10 days. But someone has been there 29 years. I'm very curious, what are some of the travel delights in Japan that you have experienced that you know about, and especially those that aren't in the basic tour guides, something that would not necessarily be on the most popular list that you'd want someone to experience when they were coming to Japan?

George Nagatsuka:

Sure, I can share a few and these are experiences I've directly had in the past and during my time here in Japan if you are a whiskey follower or lover Yes, yes I am. Well, you definitely know that the Japanese whiskies are very highly sought after, especially for us.

Rick Denton:

Yes.

George Nagatsuka:

And well as an example if you have you ever heard of the Suntori distillery

Rick Denton:

I had not until I went to Japan and was served it at several of the restaurants and bars that we went to tell me more about the distillery though this is it was an incredibly tasty whiskey. I was a big fan.

George Nagatsuka:

Yes. And sometimes he has many different brands under their their portfolio. Huck shoe is one of them and they do have a distillery that they do open up to the public for visits and actual distillery is located in the beautiful mountains of Yamanashi, Yamanashi Prefecture. And around that area, it's surrounded by a lot of lush forests, pristine sources of water. And that's the water is actually very important for whiskey. And the tour will actually take you through the entire whiskey making process. And it's, it's, it'll show you the different types of barley that they use and the final product. Of course, at the end, you'll have opportunity to sample a few and then be able to take home some of the award winning brandy, the whiskies that they offer. And, you know, that's something that maybe that you want to look into, if you're into into that area, the whiskies

Rick Denton:

and tell me, what's it what city what region is that where would I find

George Nagatsuka:

Yamanashi Prefecture it's closer to towards Mount Fuji area. So that's the approximate location. And

Rick Denton:

yeah, you know, if people think about traveling to Scotland, right, oh, I'm gonna go to Scotland and there's so many things in Scotland, but oftentimes the first time or the first time they have the scotch whisky, folks aren't thinking about got that in Japan. And I liked that you're saying no, here's a reason to come to Japan. The whiskey here is spectacular come toward the distilleries.

George Nagatsuka:

And one other place I'd like to mention is actually not far from Tokyo. If you go a little bit further south, maybe by an hour by Shinkansen, a narrative called Izu Peninsula, and I would highly recommend it. It was recently identified as UNESCO World Heritage Site in Cairo, right. And so one of the hidden areas and a fantastic experience I had, personally was visiting the dole guy Shima 10, Soto caves, and what these are naturally formed and caves along the ocean. These are rock formations that you can actually walk on a small boat and take a boat tour through the caves. And it's just fantastic experience to see and experience things water if you're like the waterside area instead of the mountains. So those are two that I can recommend.

Rick Denton:

George a little change of pace here. As many would know, the distance to Japan, certainly from the US is quite a ways. And it can wear on the traveler and even travel inside of Japan, there's a lot more distance. And I think people realize, even if you are on that ship, because on the bullet train, right, it can take a little while. And so it can be nice to take a rest in the lounge as you're traveling. So I'd like you to join me here in the first class lounge, we'll move quickly here and hopefully have a little bit of fun. What is a dream travel location from your past.

George Nagatsuka:

So one of the areas I really enjoyed in my past travels, and actually it was a business trips. And I went to Madrid, Spain nice. And it was only for about a week. But I was able to after work, be able to do some sightseeing. And it was a very enjoyable time. And actually very similar in terms of how food is presented, that's founded here in Japan.

Rick Denton:

Interesting. Tell me more about that. I don't think that that would be a natural reaction that people would think that the Japanese and the Spanish presentations would be similar.

George Nagatsuka:

On Japan, there's places called Izakaya. And basically, you get to order small, different dishes of great food. And based on that concept, and what I meant by similarities with Madrid is many of the places that I went to also have the same concept. Yeah, so you're able to eat a lot of tasteless food on small little plates.

Rick Denton:

Thank you may have just given some listeners an idea for a new fusion restaurant. The Izakaya Tapas restaurant and somehow blend that. Let's let's make that happen. I guarantee there's somebody in a trendier district than I am that's thinking of that idea and is about to come out with the Izakaya tapas. What about going forward? What is a dream travel location you've not been to yet?

George Nagatsuka:

I think a location wise I have not traveled over abroad to like Central Central America, Caribbean or South America. So I think those are spots that I would like to consider visiting and learning more about

Rick Denton:

well, I can assure you they're fantastic places having living where I live I'm a lot closer to in fact the family we just got back from the Dominican Republic Caribbean destination for a daughter's school holiday. It's her last year of high school and so we took a trip there I highly recommended George get out and come over to this side of the world and enjoy it because it is it'll be a delightful trip treat. We talked about food. What is a favorite thing of yours to eat?

George Nagatsuka:

Yeah, that's a difficult question. Yes, because I love all sorts of food. But if I have to think about it, it comes from my my past and growing up in New Jersey. So I love the Philadelphia cuisine and I think I have to say pizza is okay. It's my favorite type of food.

Rick Denton:

Well, I mentioned in the intro we talked about miso and we talk about meatballs so I didn't quite get I was almost there with meatballs, pizza being and certainly some great pizza that can be found there. What about on the other side? What is the thing your parents forced you to eat but You hated as a kid.

George Nagatsuka:

Okay, so, you know, I grew up on my parents farm, and I had no issues with any of the vegetables that we grow. I think, if I remember, I didn't really like having having instant ramen. There wasn't, it wasn't, it was okay at the time. But when I came to Japan and having freshly made ramen and put it in front of you, it was a totally different concept. And it was it was fantastic. You know, but instant ramen, I would have to say was something not pleasant.

Rick Denton:

Now college kids all around the US are going What do you mean? Ramen? That's what I live on. Having experienced what you're describing it, it's I didn't know it, I was completely ignorant of it as well. I only knew what came in the little packages here out of the grocery store. But now that I've experienced real and restaurant ramen, holy cow, there's a there's a difference to be had indeed. All right. With travel and I know you've done it with business, you've done it with personal what is that one item not including your phone, not including your passport that you will not leave home without?

George Nagatsuka:

Well through trial and error, and mostly through the error side. I've I never leave home without my handy portable baggage scale to weigh my bags. Because, you know, I tend to when I go on business trips, buy a lot of souvenirs and things like that, and I end up paying for overweight luggage. So yeah, portable luggage scales for me is something that I take all the time.

Rick Denton:

George, having been right on the cusp of that limit, having traveled going up between Japan and the US, I can appreciate the scale, I probably should start to pack with something like that, because I'm telling you it was it was pretty close to where we were going to have to be throwing stuff away at the airport or repackaging or figuring that out. So your idea of the scale is a good one. Let's let's go back. I mentioned this in the intro, I want to get back to talking about your really deep process background GE is legendary, right? That is the gold standard, or rather, let me call it the black belt standard of process. And so how has that process focused experienced influenced your customer experience focus today?

George Nagatsuka:

Well, in addition to my experience, with ISO 9001, concepts, Six Sigma methodology and Black Belt Cynefin influence, it definitely influenced the way I perceive and look at customers customer experience, even from long ago, up to up to now, you know, as you know, six sigma is a great methodology that is able to identify, remove defects, and minimize the very variations in the process. And that all helps to translate to a very good customer experience, especially if you're able to provide consistent product and services. In Japan, you know, I've worked a lot with Japanese customers here. And as you understand and No, certainly there's a huge strong emphasis on quality and the attention to details. And so that bar across the board for many Japanese customers, when interfacing from a Western standpoint, is quite high. And these customers and clients expect nothing less than the highest quality and the operations and the delivery of the product. And so that could also actually be an issue because what they expect could be considered premium service or expectations in other countries outside of Japan. So you know, working with Japanese customers, especially on on issues, they are really focused on understanding what, what, what the resolution is going to be about. And that's also maybe beyond the expectations compared to other locations. Of course customers. Yeah,

Rick Denton:

let's let's talk about that a little bit, actually. Then that hits a thought there because you're talking about the expectations. And I can I can see that and I can see how I talked about it in my total voice the cost From an approach where you're using the customer's input to then improve your company, the the internal closed loop feedback, the iclm, in that they can use a Six Sigma discipline, it can use a process approaches the focus on getting it right. So it's consistently right. You know, that's a key part of this, and you hit something there that trigger that thought of you. But for us to know what those expectations are, we have to listen to the customer, we have to know what their voices. And so along with that process where you're looking to improve their experience, you're trying to get it right for every customer every time. I know that the expectations can vary widely across regions. And I'm curious how that applies. G has taken you to travel all over places across Asia. I'm curious what you've observed, when it comes to that expectation around customer experience that approach to even how do we listen to the customer across Japan? And then across Asia?

George Nagatsuka:

So I'm gathering that you're referring to the voice of the customer customer? Is?

Rick Denton:

That's one element of it. Absolutely. Right, that voice of the customer that voc? How do we, what have you observed, that's different if you're trying to get it right for every customer every time but you've got this great region, that you're that has incredible variability across the region. What does that approach to Voice of the Customer look like in the different regions you've been a part of?

George Nagatsuka:

Well, one of the tools that in GE that we use to measure voc was the tool involving was called Net Promoter Score, NPS. And, you know, one of the challenges was that was the variations response of different customers located in Southeast Asia compared to you know, Korea or even even with Japan. And, as I mentioned, Japanese customers are, have a high expectation on the performance of the product and services. And so when they filled out the NPS, typically, their NPS scores were much lower compared to the other customers located in the region. And some of the factors that may contribute to that was, you know, with the whole concept of Omotenashi expectation of right, over and beyond customer service, an expectation, anticipating what the customer wants, and also for the fact that Japanese customers may tend to be more reserved in expressing their opinions, even on the poll. Yeah. And to try to avoid and maintain harmony, you know, they would opt opt out to put a five or it's like something like a mid score, right? So I think, you know, compared to Southeast Asia, customers, they may be focused on more of design or the marketing aspects of the reliability of the product or service. Certainly, compared to Japanese customers to expect the high quality and are focused on other criterias.

Rick Denton:

I liked that variability of the difference there. That has to be a challenge for companies, this idea of, especially if you have a culture that is reluctant to say something directly, it is still I even remember a tour that we did a night tour there. And listeners, I apologize, the fire alarm is going off right now. So if it sneaks in here, I apologize for that. The this a subtlety of how complaints are expressed a subtlety of how dissatisfaction is expressed. They seem to be very prevalent in the Japanese culture. And that reluctance can be hard for a company to teach through that. And it just proves the importance of really understanding your customer listening to them and then being able to act upon it even when the customer is perhaps not speaking to you as directly as you would hope they would. You know, George, I'd like to close out with some of its related to that a little bit. If that's the challenge, right. And we need to move customer experience forward. What What would you say is is next for customer experience in Japan? What are what are you focused on? How are you helping companies improve today?

George Nagatsuka:

Well, I spent 17 years at General Electric And afterwards at this, at some point in time, I decided to leave and afterwards, I want ventured out and, and decided to do and try my own thing. Right now I am a entrepreneur, I've launched a digital marketing agency and 2022. And I tried to focus and help Japanese businesses that are actually trying to promote to promote the Japanese culture and experience to inbound tourism to Japan. So my energy agency is focused on helping these Japanese clients create or establish a English based website. And also help with help them with their SEO and everything. But to help them better showcase, and be more accessible to the global market. And recently, on top of that, I've expanded my services to help promote their events, from my website, to the global market. And I'm focused on trying to share, you know, the Japanese cultures and experience through eco tours, and that allow people to enjoy and have a very wonderful experience while visiting Japan.

Rick Denton:

I love it. I love every bit of that, especially as someone who's just gotten back from there. A country that recently reopened I believe, is October of 22. And so tourism is I get already start to see it starting to expand, I can already start to see it grow. And so understanding your inbound customer that of the English speaking customer in the English speaking tourist, and helping a company react and respond to them in their digital communications, and then even the options they provide. What a great way to end that because folks, if you're listening, figured out how to get to Japan, it's a great place to be Georgia folks want to get to know you get to know a little bit more about your approach to customer experience, your background or even to work with you and what you do today. What's the best way for them to get in touch with you to learn more?

George Nagatsuka:

They can get in touch with me through LinkedIn, I can provide the information you can find that or you can visit if it's okay to mention my website. It's www dot Discoverer X citing Japan, there's no E. Xciting. So discoverxcitingjapan.com. And that's how you can get an

Rick Denton:

awesome, I'll get all that in the show notes. So folks hear this scroll down click and you'll be able to get in touch with George through LinkedIn or through his website. George enjoyed the conversation today. Thank you for staying up late with me. It's great to get exposure to a country that even though I may have traveled to you've been there 29 years, you've got the exposure, you've got a depth of understanding of how customer and customer experiences approach there. And I really appreciate you sharing your wisdom with us today. Thanks for being on the show.

George Nagatsuka:

This has been a great experience. And thank you for having me once again. Thank you.

Rick Denton:

Thanks for joining us this week on CX Passport. If you liked today’s episode I have 3 quick next steps for you Click subscribe on the CX Passport youtube channel or your favorite podcast app Next leave a comment below the video or a review in your favorite podcast app so others can find and and enjoy CX Passport too Then, head over to cxpassport.com website for show notes and resources that can help you create tangible business results by delivering great customer experience. Until next time, I’m Rick Denton and I believe the best meals are served outside and require a passport.