When I began my research into the Japanese service culture they call Omotenashi, it did not take too long to come across LEXUS here in U.K.
Lexus, the luxury vehicle division of the Japanese automaker Toyota, stand out in the highly competitive U.K. car sector. It is that end of the business in which customers are no longer merely buying a vehicle to get themselves from A to B in some degree of comfort! They’re not only buying a superb creation of refined and reliable design and engineering, but also, an experience. A feeling. Something of a lifestyle statement perhaps.
Of course Luxury is an experience
When you are selling a luxury automobile you are, of course, selling an experience. Everybody knows that. One that begins the moment your customer makes first contact with the brand and the dealership. Often even before the moment they walk across your forecourt and into the actual showroom itself.
Lexus had this figured out some years ago when they took on board the underlying philosophies behind Omotenashi culture and, in this example, interpreted and applied these ideas to the U.K. social cultural context. Delivering extraordinary levels of customer-centricity in a very British way that actually begins with some of the high touches in the car’s design and carries through, seamlessly, into the experience of buying one. And owning one, after the purchase.
The (predictable) result?
Consistency. Year after year they are the top ranked dealership in U.K. – and elsewhere I imagine, in terms of the customer experience they deliver. And consistency in service delivery is one of the component elements of Omotenashi culture itself. Team members in corporate service cultures like this don’t have “grumpy off-days”. They can’t afford to. Excellent service IS the product.
But isn’t Omotenashi a hospitality philosophy?
What make this particularly interesting is that fact that they exist, obviously, well outside the hospitality space in which Omotenashi culture originated. Or do they?
While I was researching the underlying concepts I came across the Japanese version of “The Customer is King” – which we are all familiar with in the west. The Japanese version is “O-Kyaku-Sama wa Kami-Sama desu” – which, once the polite bits are stripped out, translates to “Customer Divine Is!” But also as “The GUEST is Divine”. Because the Japanese word for Customer “O-Kyaku” means both. Your customer is your guest. And vice versa. (hoteliers, please note).
Once you have internalised this idea, which Lexus obviously have, you end up treating customers in your dealership as you might guests in your home. Not a service philosophy based on being subservient, or servile, but rather a relationship of equals with high levels of respect being exchanged across the experience. Which is why it feels so enjoyable!
I expect to continue to see Lexus at the top of the car dealership customer experience winner’s list for a long time to come.