What kind of hotel sends a memo like this to all its guests?

While researching the extraordinary customer service culture in Japan that everybody raves about, I came across one particular example that stood out for its sheer obsession with guest-centric service attention.

An example, insignificant on the face of it, but revealing and interesting once you stop to think about the many trickle down implications.

It is a memo to room guests in the Palace Hotel, Tokyo - Japan. I've attached a copy. It reads as follows:-

"Dear Guests,

Due to the Emergency electric utility maintenance, we will have an interruption of internet access for approximately one minute from 4.00 a.m. on Thursday April 14th.

We apologize for this inconvenience, and highly appreciate for your king (sic) understanding.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if we may be of any assistance on this matter"

Is this memo excessive?

On the face of it, going to the trouble of informing every guest in your hotel that there will be a one minute internet connectivity outage in the middle of the night seems a tad excessive and unnecessary.

But then again, it is quite likely some international business people might be connecting with their colleagues in other time zones at 4.00am Tokyo time - which is GMT+9 - Do your own calculations of the time in Los Angeles, New York, London etc.

The planned outage might only be for a minute, but if you didn't know the cause and duration of the outage and were kicked off an online meeting you might be pretty irritated. You might panic, reboot your device, check your internet connection program for a fault, reload a VPN program. All to no avail.

Then you might call reception to try and find out what is going on from a person who might not know and might not have the language skills to understand your problem nor be able to explain to you the situation if they did. And so on.

But if you had "got the memo" and knew in advance, you could inform your colleagues, demonstrating that you are staying in a hotel with impeccable service and that you were in control of your global connectivity. A globe-trotting professional.

I spent years as a frequent international traveler as a Chief Information Officer serving the global connectivity/VPN etc. needs of a large collection of demanding executives across 11 countries and know how it feels.

Cross-Silo Management Culture

What additionally interested me about this memo was that it demonstrated that the I.T. systems manager decided that, despite the outage being so short, it would be appropriate to inform management of it to allow them to organise this memo. Which came from the Housekeeping department. To me, that demonstrates a commitment to customer service excellence working right across the usual silos you get in large organisations.


This is, in my opinion, a great example of an important element of the Japanese customer service culture called "KIKUBARI" - the art of proactively anticipating guest needs.

In this case, removing a source of potential anxiety by keeping you, their honoured guest, fully informed at all times. Even at 4.00am in the morning.

Here in U.K. ?

I'd be curious to know if a UK hotel I.T. manager would inform management similarly and would management write a memo for every room like this? I would like to think that some hotels would. If you are in the hotel industry, why not let me know?

In Japan they have extraordinary customer service competitions

The culture of extraordinary customer service is so pervasive that some Japanese companies have competitions for who can give the best customer service. All Nippon Airlines, ANA, one of Japan's airlines, has a customer service competition that focuses on the little interactions that can make life so pleasant.

It is all part of their 'Omotenashi' hospitality and service ethos that we'll be hearing more and more about as the Tokyo Olympics approaches.

What I find most interesting is how (supposedly) mundane some of the customer service interactions appear to be on the surface. And yet, if you stop to think, given the context of a busy cabin, the sometimes limited time between take off and landing, or between takeoff and first meal for example, each of these moments of personal care took a small decision to STOP whatever else they were dsoing and pay attention to the small personal needs of somebody.

We've all been in restaurants in which it is impossible to catch the server's eye as they walk past with deliberate tunnel vision. On an airplane, it's the same thing, only ten times more acute.

"Winners of ANA’s most recent competition were rewarded for engaging in a fun conversation with a passenger who said he loved airplanes; providing a magnifying glass to an elderly couple reading small text on a customs form; and other generous gestures."

There is so much scope for this in the world of face to face customer service interaction.

Singapore Airlines is, of course, the airline to beat in this respect, but across Asia, they all seem to do this so well.

So next time you are travelling to Japan, use a Japanese airline and you can start to experience their culture of guest hospitality even before you arrive.