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Shoes Off to Japanese Customer Service

April 8, 2011
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The earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crises in Japan have brought stories of tragedy, survival, and hope to light. Many of these stories reflect a vast difference between American and Japanese culture; for example, standing in line. It is not a tough concept to grasp, but when asked to stand in line for basic needs, the buzz is that evacuees stood in line and waited for what assistance could be offered; no questions asked and no complaints made. In contrast to how American’s stand in line - often loud, complaining, and in more of a mob than a line - the behavior of the Japanese could be considered amazing; especially considering the circumstances.

Another fascinating cultural story came from a family friend. This former U.S. Navy officer was recently evacuated from Japan. During dinner the other night she told the story of her new refrigerator being delivered a few years before the earthquake. Two delivery men arrived with the brand new refrigerator and carried it up to her apartment. As they entered the apartment, each paused, still holding the refrigerator, and popped off their shoes.

Wow, talk about customer service. Understandably, removing ones shoes upon entering a domicile is extremely cultural in Japan, but to do it while carrying a refrigerator is phenomenal. If there was ever a time to bypass this cultural practice, refrigerator delivery is likely it.

With this story in mind, it seems that shoe covers are the least technicians can do to respect the customer’s home. If you haven’t implemented this practice in your company, perhaps it is time to consider making shoe covers a part of company policy. If your technicians complain, tell them the story of the Japanese refrigerator delivery men and then give them the option to remove their shoes instead. Of course this may cause a need for some odor eater investments. Perhaps sticking with shoe covers is a place to compromise.

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