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Japanese businesses are struggling to keep up standards
06-05-2019, 12:37 AM
Post: #1
Japanese businesses are struggling to keep up standards
[Image: 20180217_WBP001_0.jpg]

KUMIKO HIRANO has noticed a disquieting change when she goes to her neighbourhood konbini, one of Japan’s ubiquitous convenience stores. “No one is around and I have to use a loud voice to get someone to serve me,” says the 48-year-old worker in Tokyo. “It irritates me.”

This might not seem a big problem, but Japan prides itself on the standard of customer service, which approaches the level of bespoke attention elsewhere. Taxi drivers, who often wear white gloves, sometimes get out to bow when they drop off a passenger. Staff in shops and restaurants are unfailingly polite. Shoppers can order on Amazon and take delivery reliably the same day. Now Japanese are having slowly to adapt to levels of service long suffered by the rest of the world.

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The human touch is becoming rarer. Lawson, another konbini chain, is automating payment during the small hours at selected stores. Some restaurants and supermarkets are following suit. Rakuten, an e-commerce giant, is testing if drones instead of immaculately uniformed delivery personnel can make deliveries. Firms are using artificial intelligence to interact with customers. People at Henn na Hotel (meaning “strange hotel”), an expanding chain, are checked in by robots.

Opening times of shops and restaurants are becoming ever shorter. Skylark, a company that owns several popular restaurant chains, has cut the number of its restaurants that are open between 22 and 24 hours a day from 1,000 to 400. Yoshinoya, a favourite haunt for gyudon (a bowl of rice topped with beef), has done likewise. Family Mart, another convenience-store chain, is experimenting with closing some stores at certain hours of the night. Last year Yamato Transport, a delivery company, said it would consider stopping same-day deliveries for Amazon Prime.

Japan’s declining population and rising labour costs are one reason businesses are cutting customer service. Another is pressure from shareholders for better profits. On the labour side, some industries have had to raise wages to compete for staff; others cannot get them at all. In July last year the gap between the number of jobs on offer and the number of jobseekers hit a 43-year high. There are 1.59 jobs for every applicant, and not even Chinese students can fill the gap at konbini shops.

While service businesses account for three-quarters of Japan’s GDP, all those bowing staff and long opening hours make firms inefficient. Japan ranks poorly for productivity among the OECD, a club of rich nations, especially for non-manufacturing industries. Minoru Kanaya of Skylark says recent changes the firm has made have raised productivity.

For some customers the changes are worrying, cutting to the heart of Japanese culture. Children grow up revering omotenashi, the philosophy of providing service without expectation of reward. This also draws foreign visitors, notes Yuki Takada of the Omotenashi Meister Association, which provides training and sets standards in hospitality. Many also fret over whether Japan’s growing number of elderly will cope well with automation.

Yet in some areas people appear to want less frilly customer service. Some Japanese see it as defined by protocol rather than by what the customer actually wants. Waiters at Jonathan’s, one of Skylark’s restaurant chains, no longer show diners to their table after many said they would rather seat themselves. Mr Takada reckons that the number of people who are starting to feel that omotenashi is “fussy and inconvenient” is increasing.

There are few signs of a backlash yet. Japan, the home of robots, is more likely than European countries, for instance, to welcome automation. “We have to accept changes,” says 31-year-old Miki, who notes that 7-Eleven, a convenience store born in Texas, is so named because it used to open from 7am to 11pm rather than operating around the clock. Yet opinion might shift if staff cuts and the new focus on productivity mean Japanese have to wait longer, be it for public transport or in queues to pay. “Time is the red line,” says Mr Takada.

https://www.economist.com/business/2018/...-standards

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06-05-2019, 12:38 AM
Post: #2
RE: Japanese businesses are struggling to keep up standards
standards went down the drain in japan since Fukushima

that's what I've noticed.

very sloppy service relative to what they were doing in the past.
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06-05-2019, 05:55 AM
Post: #3
RE: Japanese businesses are struggling to keep up standards
(06-05-2019 12:38 AM)pug-thug Wrote:  standards went down the drain in japan since Fukushima

that's what I've noticed.

very sloppy service relative to what they were doing in the past.

When someone has to dredge up a news article from over a year ago that means he is an asshole on a vendetta.

When were you last in Japan?
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