Customer Experience (CX) and User Experience (UX) attract the interests of businesspeople in Japan. Google “Customer Experience” in Katakana, and you get 50 million search results. User Experience – over 4 million. We also notice that many companies are conducting customer research for their products and services. We recognize that companies are trying to enrich their customers’ experiences.
There is a gap…
Looking back on our daily lives, we do not have good customer experiences every day, though. In Japan, it is relatively easy to find consumer products that give us good user experiences. Store clerks are polite. But, what customers remember is the overall customer experience. No matter how good an individual service experience is, if the various elements of the service are not joined up, the overall impression can be ruined.
The product is not stocked!
One of the poor customer experiences comes from a lack of product distribution in retail outlets. When we want to take a look at a new product with our own eyes, sometimes the product is not sold at stores nearby. Online stores are convenient, but they don’t satisfy people’s desire to check the product with their own eyes. For example, when I bought a new hair oil, I had to visit four supermarkets and drug stores to find it. Because it was a new product, I wanted to check the product appearance and smell before the purchase. I was happy with the product that I bought, but visiting various stores to buy the product was a tiring experience. I may not buy the product again if the shop does not sell the product next time.
Lack of coordination
Another case of poor customer experience is a lack of coordination between product or service providers after the purchase. Here is my experience. When I had a problem with my portable Wi-Fi router for internet connections, I called the call center to find the solution. The operator advised me that I should go to an electrical shop because they couldn’t fix the device. So I did as I was bid the next day. The shop clerk asked me to contact the manufacturer directly because they couldn’t fix the device. I searched the device manufacturer and found that they were closed on that day. Oh, but I cannot wait. So, I searched for solutions on the web this time and found that the battery was the problem. Then, I bought a new one and put it in the router. The wireless router worked perfectly. I am now happy that the device is working again, but I feel angry every time I look at it!
Siloed channels undermine customer experiences
These two cases look different, but the cause of the problem is the same: lack of collaborations to deliver a total customer experience. No matter how good the product is, if people can’t buy it at stores, it’s a problem. It is also a problem for customers if they had to search high and low for the right contact to solve a problem. Of course, each customer experience with products and service centers are critical. What matters for customers is having a better overall customer experience. And, customer experience research should look to capture the totality.
These problems are not unique to the consumer markets in Japan. While Japanese companies are typically very good at attention to detail, many do not go beyond their business territories to enrich overall customer experiences. Customer research focusing on just an individual service or product does not solve such customer issues.
There problems are opportunities
Considering this problem positively, we can turn this problem into the opportunity. There are opportunities to break down silos in channels and integrate them to bring enriched customer experiences. It may not be easy, but there are needs and opportunities ahead.
It’s not all bad news, though
Finally, I would also like to mention that not all experiences in the markets in Japan are poor. Let me share my positive experience with one pharmacy. I went to a pharmacy to pick up a prescription but found that they did not have it in stock. Then, a pharmacist in the shop said, “Let me find a pharmacy that has it in stock.” She called several pharmacies nearby and found the one that had the stock. She gave me a hand-written map to get there. With the help of the pharmacist, I had a great experience even though I did not buy the medicine there. Perhaps what this tells us is that customer service is not just about well-designed systems, but about human kindness and spontaneity too.
I am sure that I will come back to the shop again.