Why you might want to deal with Japanese people as a customer rather than business to business

I am not sure how many of you have dealt with Japanese people as a customer, or as they are your client.

Japanese people are very tricky to deal with. Yes, I am a Japanese! But I even have a hard time dealing with them sometimes. No wonder I left the country long time ago.

This is the stereotype of Japanese people “nice and polite”.

Yes, generally speaking, we are “nice and polite”.

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However, it would be different when you visit Japan as a tourist (as a customer), and when you live there.

They would treat you as a customer because you are only visiting, another word they don't expect you to be one of them.

However, if you live there, they would expect you to be one of them, meaning you would need to respect their culture and follow their rules.

If you have visited Japan, you know how Japanese people are strict about TIME. Trains are always on time.

When the train arrives late even for a minute, we have the right to claim for “proof of delay”, so that we could prove our employers the reason why we are late to work.

There are 45 train lines in Tokyo, they had to issue “proof of delay” 11 times average in a single month in 2018, which means they issued almost once in 2 days (20 working days a month). Apparently, 31 lines out of 45 train lines had to issue this “proof of delay” more than 10 times in a single month, which makes people concerned.

You may have seen many people in long queue to get on the train in rush hours. They even estimate how long it would take to get on the train, so that you can add it to the commute.

Since I am talking about the train, you know the train always stops at the same spot. There are indications on the platform where the doors would be, if the driver couldn't stop where he was supposed to, he would make an adjustment before they open the doors.

That's how we are detailed about certain things, and how we are strict about TIME.

As you the customer and made an appointment to see someone, most likely you will see this person on time, maybe even a few minutes earlier but never later.

Production time as well, if someone promises you to be ready by a certain date, it will be most likely ready by the date. If not, they will notify you in advance with the reason why.

If they noticed they made a mistake in the process, they will tell you straight up with an apology.

If they delivered the product with mistakes, they will remake it without a question.

Determination of “mistake” could be different with each individual. I have heard some horror stories about some other retailers, where they made a product with the wrong fabric and still didn't replace or refund. Or customer asked for 2 button jacket, but arrived with 3 button jacket, these are obvious mistakes, and need to be replaced without a question.

I am very particular about the “measurements” and “craftsmanship”. Knowing that there is a tolerance in the outcome of the measurements by the factory default. Usually up to +-1cm. If the jacket length I asked for is 70cm, it could be between 69cm and 71cm. It doesn't seem too much, but it will be noticeable in certain places.

Also, something that people may not even care or notice, such as the way the lapel rolls, or crooked stitch line.

Since I cannot see inside by the time I receive the garment, I would expect the factory to do the right thing inside as well.

I wrote about “how different about our suit” before, explaining how important to have the “sponging process” done to the fabric. I sometimes get notified by the factory that there is a defect in the fabric, which usually a “skipped weave” or “”crooked weave line” that people wouldn't notice unless you mention.

Depends where it is in the fabric, we usually repair the weave, or replace with the whole new fabric.

These are something that I don't even have to mention to the factories I use, because they expect the same level as I do.

This is how Japanese culture and mind work, if we know there is something wrong, regardless of big or small, we would need to be honest with you about it even though you may not notice it.

These are the summary of why you may want to deal with Japanese people as a customer.

1.         We value your time, we will not be late for the appointment

2.         We will let you know in advance, if there is a possibility of delay

3.         We will let you know in advance, if we made a mistake and remake it right away

4.         We will let you know if something is wrong, even though you may not notice it

5.         We will give you an honest opinion about the style and the fit, even that could be something that you may not want to hear

6.         We will let you know everything up front, very transparent


For you to deal with Japanese people as they are the client of yours (especially in Japan), could be very difficult.

1.         Be on time, even 15 minutes early is not too early

Don't even thinking about having a takeout coffee in your hand

2.         Dress well

You don't have to wear suits, dress appropriately for your industry, but my advice is to wear a tie if it’s not summer time (From June 1 to Sep 30)

3.         Have a business card ready

They will ask you for it, and you will receive it when you meet them. A Handshake is not their way of greeting, exchanging the business cards is.

4.         Have at least a bag with a notepad and a pen

At least to pretend that you are taking notes

5.         They might be smiling in their face, but they are not smiling inside

This is the tricky part, they may even take you out to lunch or dinner if it is a business meeting, but it doesn't mean they like you or willing to do business with you.

6.         These are the key words for you

Empathy, Compassion, Warmth, Understanding, Passion, Humanity…

If they feel you are fake or up to something, they will smile at you but will not do any business with you.

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