おもてなし - Omotenashi
Omotenashi is a Japanese word that has recently come to mean anything and everything to do with the extraordinary customer experience you find all over Japan.
Omotenashi おもてなし actually has a more specific, narrow, meaning that describes the essence of their unique approach to customer service.
The Japanese proudly claim that it is a service and hospitality ethos unique to Japan and that is perhaps true. But when you get to the core ideas that lie behind the word it is a philosophy shared by service-minded people the world over.
If you are in a Hospitality, Retail, Learning and Development, Customer Service or Customer eXperience role, you will want to get up to speed on the subject of Omotenashi.
Precise definitions of the word are not that easy because Japanese is a rich, layered language with multiple depths of meaning. Yes, one word can have more than one meaning - not surprising for a language that combines two alphabets, hiragana ひらがな and katakana カタカナ with thousands of 漢字 Kanji pictograms of Chinese origin.
With that said, the word OMOTENASHI can best be understood on three levels, starting with :-
The Dictionary Definition
Look up the word in a Japanese-English dictionary and you will get a short word definition as follows:-
"1. hospitality; reception; treatment; service; entertainment"
This link is representative of the meanings given on other similar dictionaries. The problem with such a cursory definition is that it tells you nothing of the qualities of the hospitality, reception, treatment etc. Does it mean good service or indifferent service? Warm hospitality or perfunctory hospitality?
To understand that it is necessary to turn to the roots of meaning in the Japanese language. And this is where it gets more interesting.
Its roots in Japanese language
The word おもてなし has in it, two meanings in linguistic terms.
First is "Omote" おもて meaning the "surface" or front of something.
And the second part "Nashi" なし means "nothing or less"
Put these two elements together and you get "No Surface" and therefore no "back" either. It is therefore a concept that implies doing something without a hidden meaning or agenda. Not two-faced. Serving a guest or a customer with no ulterior motive or expectation of thanks.
There is also a second linguistic meaning.
Omit the initial "O", which is the part of the word added for Japanese Polite Language reasons, and you are left with the "Mote" of Omotenashi which can mean "being in a state of having things" either material of conceptual "things". The second element comes from the verb "Naru" which means "To accomplish things right through to the end"
Put these elements together therefore and the meaning implies doing something, in service of others, all the way through to the end. And thus giving your service wholeheartedly. This is perhaps why you will hear Japanese use the expression "Omotenashi no kokoro". meaning "Omotenashi from the heart"
Consider these two meanings together and you have a working definition of a philosophy of service done in a wholehearted, accomplished way with no ulterior motive or agenda other than that of being of service.
Language evolves so there is now wider definition
Languages grow and evolve and with the growing popularity of the word these days there is a growing recognition that Customer eXperience is as important as customer service alone. The perception of satisfaction with a company, brand, product or service that comes from a wider range of feedback than just service.
As a result, the word Omotenashi is increasingly being used to imply/mean anything to do with customer- focused expression in behaviour, service, intent or even product design. And this idea goes as far as User Interface design in the world of the internet. I believe this stretches and dilutes the meaning of the word too far to be useful.
Some interesting links that explain it further
Perhaps, therefore, the best summary definition should be simply is along these lines:-
"Omotenashi is a philosophy of life that believes in the giving of service without any expectation of thanks"
When this is understood, it becomes obvious that everybody who works in any role that has any kind of final impact on customer or guest satisfaction is part of the spirit of Omotenashi. Not only those who have a direct customer facing role to play.
And when you stop to think about that, it includes pretty much all of us!
What Omotenashi feels like on the receiving end.
" There are many things I could write about regarding Japan's style of view on business, such as negotiations, loyal relationships or continuous improvement or 'kaizen', but today I want to focus on the politeness that is ubiquitous there and that leads the Japanese to being world famous in their customer service. Entrepreneurs and managers everywhere should be keen to learn how they can adapt these small but powerful concepts to improve their own customer service experience. "
"Make no mistake: Japan is a modern country with breathtaking technology built into everything from its bullet trains to its trash cans. However, the country offers a great lesson in the fact that no matter how fast technology changes, there are certain things that don’t: feeling appreciated, having a sensory experience and being on the receiving end of kindness and enthusiasm are all things that people want from a shopping experience"
"Before I went to Japan for the first time, I was told by well-traveled friends to expect a level of customer service so polished and comprehensive that even the most basic transactions can take on a ceremonious air."
Tracking Omotenashi news stories
- Japan Airlines and MOS Burger introduce "Air MOS" Teriyaki Burger - Kevin Marshall June 24, 2019Japan Airlines and MOS Burger introduce "Air MOS" Teriyaki Burger Kevin MarshallIf you've been to Japan, one of the sights that will greet you is MOS Burger. Well, it seems MOS Burger and Japan Airlines are working together again for their ...
- New commercial shows people in Japan offending foreigners with their stinky breath【Video】 - SoraNews24 June 22, 2019New commercial shows people in Japan offending foreigners with their stinky breath【Video】 SoraNews24Survey says one in two foreigners have been bummed out by meeting Japanese people with bad breath.
- Lexus at 30: How luxury Japanese car brand is pursuing lifestyle future - Pocket-lint June 21, 2019Lexus at 30: How luxury Japanese car brand is pursuing lifestyle future Pocket-lintWe get the inside line on Lexus in Japan, from design and production, to dealerships, concept stores and what the next 30 years may hold.
- Gap in the market: Understanding the Japan opportunity - CasinoBeats June 19, 2019Gap in the market: Understanding the Japan opportunity CasinoBeatsNatalie Meyer, founder and CEO at cultural insight agency Tokyoesque, offers a view of Japan's emerging casino landscape - and the opportunities ahead.
- Japan wraps everything in plastic. Now it wants to fight against plastic pollution. - The Washington Post June 18, 2019Japan wraps everything in plastic. Now it wants to fight against plastic pollution. The Washington PostJapan wants collective action to tackle the ocean plastic crisis at next week's G-20 summit, although the country still has an obsession with plastic packaging.
- AAAFF Review: Omotenashi: Japanese/Taiwanese family story is a glimpse into tradition - Screens - Austin Chronicle June 17, 2019AAAFF Review: Omotenashi: Japanese/Taiwanese family story is a glimpse into tradition - Screens Austin ChronicleThere's a concept in Japanese culture: Omotenashi, an idea that goes beyond mere customer *service* and is more about understanding the needs and wants of ...
- Okada Manila rises as fast-growing entertainment haven - South China Morning Post June 15, 2019Okada Manila rises as fast-growing entertainment haven South China Morning PostThe international *service* industry undoubtedly holds Japanese hospitality and Filipino warmth in leagues of their own. Fusing the two cultures into an iconic ...
- Austin Asian American Film Festival Raises Its Profile - Austin Chronicle June 14, 2019Austin Asian American Film Festival Raises Its Profile Austin ChronicleAsian cinema is back on the calendar and AAAFF celebrates its filmmakers.
- The Loft by Lexus and Brussels Airlines is Europe’s best airport lounge - Motoring Research June 11, 2019The Loft by Lexus and Brussels Airlines is Europe’s best airport lounge Motoring ResearchThe Loft by Brussels Airlines and Lexus at Brussels Airport has been named Europe's best airport lounge at the 2019 World Travel Awards. More than 450,000 ...
- Freshworks targets Japan with OrangeOne - - Enterprise Times June 10, 2019Freshworks targets Japan with OrangeOne - Enterprise TimesFreshworks has boosted its presence in Japan with a new strategic partner agreement with OrangeOne. Founded in 2006 OrangeOne Corporation has a ...