Learn from the Legends of Digital Omotenashi

Posted by
Erin Kang
LivePerson Contributor
04/02/2015 - 10:00

Fashion trends, beloved bands and some of our favorite TV shows fade away, only to make a comeback years later. Hence the thunderous return of high-waisted jeans, wayfarer sunglasses, the cat eye, neon jelly bracelets and Paul McCartney. (I wonder if shoulder pads will ever be cool again … hope not!)

For business, customer service is making a comeback—it’s become one of the most critical factors along the path to purchase and brand loyalty.  

Brands are innovating the customer journey to meet expectations. Lyft sends a text when your ride arrives; Amazon lets you shop direct from your Twitter feed (#Amazoncart); and Starbucks is experimenting with mobile ordering, just to name a few.

Feeling overshadowed? There is a way for brands (even small businesses) to keep up with customer service gurus, like Amazon. The secret: Digital omotenashi.

In case you missed the first post in this series, digital omotenashi is based on the “spirit of service” under Japanese hospitality. LivePerson’s Dustin Dean noted, “Omotenashi is a deep-rooted cultural practice, focused on anticipating customer wishes.” Omotenashi is the heart of customer service, beating to selflessly serve and delight consumers.

 (n.) A deep rooted cultural practice focused on anticipating customer wishes.

Only a few brands to date have achieved omotenashi—some in more traditional ways, and others via digital. Below are a few trailblazers.

Masters of the art of traditional omotenashi
 

With a service-oriented culture, it’s not surprising that travel and hospitality heavyweights such as Virgin America and Mandarin Oriental Hotels have successfully delivered a humanized customer experience without being intrusive.

Here’s what they’re doing right.

Virgin America

Named America’s highest-quality major airline in the U.S., Virgin America soars high above its competition due to its stellar in-flight and off-flight experience. Unlike other airlines, Virgin understands and caters to their consumers’ needs so well that they frequently leverage social media to check-in to the airlines and share these positive experiences with friends and family.

When Omotenashi is practiced, customers have a great experience

We’ve all seen it—that boring, monotone safety video as you board a flight. But, not on Virgin. When boarding, you’ll see the “safety dance,” injecting a bit of personality into a must-have safety procedure. Plus, Virgin is committed to having the lowest fares and caters to common traveling woes (i.e. special plans for cancellation and baggage delivery). Virgin is all about the in-flight experience.

Virgin’s customer-care style is driven by Founder Richard Branson’s focus on “people first; profits second.” Branson takes customer service back to its roots, and emphasizes a customer-first approach to business.

Mandarin Oriental Hotels

Various locations under the Mandarin Oriental Hotel chain have repeatedly received hospitality awards and appeared on U.S. News & World Report’s best hotels ranking list. Wolfgang Hultner, chief executive of Mandarin Americas, operates the hotel chain under the business mantra,no service, no profit.”

It’s the small details that humanize the guest experience, and separate Mandarin from its competitors. For example, an online guest form allows the staff to personalize the guest experience in advance, according to Fast Company. This includes presetting a preferred temperature, displaying a desired podcast on a TV, and customizing the weather forecast on the room’s telephone color touchscreen to the guest’s home ZIP code. The Mandarin chain exudes traditional omotenashi, delivering on needs even before they’re requested.

The next wave: digital omotenashi

 

Perhaps even more important in today’s era, is practicing digital omotenashi.

Several brands are leading the way and have mastered digital omotenashi—anticipating needs of today’s consumer who is using multiple devices and is always connected.

Below are a few companies already doing it right.

Virgin Atlantic

Not only does Virgin Atlantic master the traditional sense of the in-person experience; it’s all over the digital experience too.

“The Virgin brand is being an everyday pioneer. This means innovating with our customers, exceeding our customers expectation, bringing them services and products that are ahead of the competition.” - John Giddings, General Manager, Contact Centers

Virgin Atlantic uses LiveEngage to strategically engage website visitors at the optimal moment, even before they request support. For example, jetsetters receive a chat invitation at critical moments throughout the booking process, or if they appear confused on page. These critical moments, or common trouble zones, are pinpointed using rules-based targeting.

The results? Customer satisfaction (CSAT) exceeds 80 percent. Plus, chat has proved much cheaper than email and phone support for Virgin Atlantic.

TravelZoo

TravelZoo, the leading publisher of travel and entertainment deals, is focused on customer care and  “about about trust,” says Lisa Oswald, SVP of customer service.

TravelZoo is keen on introducing customers to a new experience, both on their site and on their adventures. Oswald notes, “How do we introduce people to new experiences they never knew they wanted?” At the heart of omotenashi, TravelZoo uses technology to anticipate customer desires.

Lancome

The infamous maker of French beauty products, Lancome has created a digital experience with a human touch. To recreate the in-store shopping experience, Lancome uses behavioral history onsite to engage shoppers with personalized messaging.

“It is the inner nature of our brand to serve our clients ... What we say internally is that we don’t sell products, but rather provide a service for our clients. An obvious way to achieve this goal is to add a patch of human factor into the digital experience. - Alessio Rossi, digital marketing, e-commerce and CRM

Plus, Lancome stays in consumer pockets with mobile click to chat.   

Brand adoption: the transition to digital omotenashi
 

Beyond the cool factor, it’s clear that these brands are driven by customer-centric values and people. Below are a few ways to start implementing change, and advocate for digital omotenashi internally.

  • Share this blog post to your colleague with a note about the changes you’d like to see.
  • Re-assess your use of technology; do you have the capability to deliver omotenashi and anticipate needs? Predictive, intelligent technologies are anticipating digital customer needs—and delivering in a way that’s personal and relevant.
  • Create (or revisit) your company’s internal culture contract, as well as customer contracts. Integrate omotenashi as a leading factor.
  • Look for opportunities to showcase the impact of great customer service.
  • See the first post in this series for four more ways to deliver omotenashi.


The “digital” in “digital omotenashi” recreates a personalized, meaningful, and service oriented experience online or on a device. It feels like a personal connection enabled by digital, rather than prohibited by digital.

It’s a digital-first era. Are you ready to achieve digital omotenashi?

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