US vs. Japan – The Key Difference in Customer Support

US vs. Japan – The Key Difference in Customer Support

There are some customer service standards that apply everywhere across the globe, whether you live in China, Korea, Japan, or the US. The customer service industry relies on people with strong listening and empathy skills. Cultural differences in Asia might be tricky if you don’t know how to navigate them.

Same is the case when we talk about the US and Japan. There are many similarities and cultural differences between the two nations. As a result, one will see a huge difference regarding customer service in the US vs Japan. 

So, what customer service expectations exist in the US vs Japan comparison? How do the two differ, and what makes each nation unique regarding customer service? 

This post has all the answers you seek; continue reading!

Key Difference in US vs Japan Customer Support 

1. Complaint Handling 

Based on a survey of several respondents from each nation, a report from Sage Journals drew attention to the main distinctions in how customer service professionals in the US and Japan handle complaints. 

According to the statistics, service providers in Japan were more likely to offer an apology and an explanation of the issue’s origin. 

While American customer service representatives aim to make customers happy by providing practical solutions, such as cash gifts or insurance for injuries, Japanese customer support providers emphasize gaining customer understanding through proper apologies. 

But simultaneously, customer service representatives in the United States respond to client inquiries in a warm and welcoming manner as if they were long-time friends, all to make the client happy. Sometimes, AI Chatbots respond first for a quick response time, but as soon as the real representative picks up the phone, the welcoming vibe satisfies the client. 

In Japan, respecting distance, using respectful phrases, and being quick to apologize are all examples of formality and doing things the “correct” way, which are equally important in Japan, Korea, and China.

2. Response Time

American customers are far more patient than Japanese customers. When it comes to the Japanese customer, how long is too long for them to wait?

Results from a poll titled “Relation between customer satisfaction and inquiry form response time” (trans. title) were published in PR TIMES.

The ages of the 853 male and female respondents in this study ranged from fifteen to eighty-four. While the results of this poll only pertain to the speed with which inquiries are responded to, they provide insight into the overall expectations of customer service among Japanese consumers.

Most respondents (70.5%) would not tolerate a response time of more than 24 hours when dealing with consumer inquiries. Consequently, clients are likely to have a negative experience if they are made to wait more than 24 hours.

When asked about the assumed speed of a response, 49.8 percent said that a response time of up to an hour would be considered swift.

3. Expectations in the Level of Service

Japanese consumers have high service standards and do not expect to be charged for it. Service providers in Japan are known to go above and beyond to resolve customer issues, in contrast to their American counterparts.

Take Japan as an example: tipping is uncommon and insulting there. Because of this, you may expect service levels at fast food joints to be comparable to those at more upscale eateries.

In addition, if a Japanese consumer is unhappy with the outcome of their phone support call, they can request that the company dispatch someone else to assist them. Companies are more likely to show up when customers want them to without worrying too much about their cost reduction or BPO strategies. 

On the other hand, you will not see this approach in the US. 

Many American businesses see their consumers more as numbers to be mined than as individuals deserving of their time and attention.

The Japanese value “omotenashi”, or genuine, unreserved service to others, which is believed to be the best way to treat customers.

The service focus in Japan is on providing care rather than meeting expectations. No matter how small, doing whatever helps the customer feel better is crucial in Japan.

4. Contacting Customer Service Representative

It is common practice in Japan for consumers to speak with a single customer service agent on a single issue. The customer is guaranteed consistency in that case. 

Think about how often it happens in the US; you call a company with a problem, transfer you to another department, and then you have to call back and explain everything from the beginning. Just considering it likely makes your blood boil. 

Therefore, Japan tries to see things from the consumer’s perspective when designing its BPO and omnichannel strategies. If customers can speak with the same individual whenever they contact your company’s customer service department, they will be more satisfied and inclined to stick with you.

Advice for the US Companies Conducting Business in Japan

You should be prepared to satisfy the increasing demands of customer service. Because you will be competing with local suppliers, you should know that your service level must be competitive enough to succeed if the product is not relevant enough for the consumers.

Japan’s “Omotenashi” customer service culture is well-known worldwide for its strict rules. It stresses the need to understand and empathize with the other person.

Relationships are also very important in Japanese culture. You must build relationships with Japanese customers and promise to meet their needs to win their confidence and business.

In Closing

In a nutshell, clear cultural differences affect service expectations and methods when looking at customer service in Japan compared to the US.

In the US, customer service is all about being polite and quick to help. They’ll often give customers cash presents or practical answers to their problems to ensure they’re happy. Formality, genuine apologies, and going above and beyond for customers are highly valued in Japan.

Recognizing these distinctions is essential for companies expanding into new markets like China, Korea, or Japan. American companies doing business in Japan should emphasize relationship building and a dedication to meeting client needs. Meanwhile, Japanese businesses in the US should adopt more direct communication approaches in their BPO strategies.

The focus must always be on the customer, even though both countries have distinct viewpoints regarding customer support.

Author: Greg.B

Executive with 25 years of proven success in call center management and revitalizing business units. Proven career record of producing multimillion-dollar profits through pinpointing operational inefficiencies and encouraging the revitalization of employee morale and corporate culture change.

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