In Japan there is great importance placed on social propriety. Generally, from a Japanese perspective, having respect and humility is not as important as demonstrating them through words and actions. One place that social propriety, respect, and humility are demonstrated clearly is in customer service.
Wikipedia argues that customer service is an example of the value Japanese people place on giri (duty; obligation) in their culture.
“While Westerners might prize individuality and the right of a serviceperson to be an assertive social equal with opinions, Japanese generally value carrying out one’s work obligations (giri) to the best of this ability, including what might seem to those from less formal social environments like excessive, mawkish, or even hypocritical or contrived formality and servility” (“Giri,” n.d.).
Whether you agree with this explanation or not, it is true that doing your best for the customer is the norm for Japanese company employees. It is also common that workers receive extensive customer service training, including how to show proper respect to clientele.
In English, it’s common to hear the expression “The customer is always right”. In Japan, they go a bit further than that, saying “お客さまは神様です” (おきゃくさまはかみさまです), which means “The customer/guest is God (a god)”.
Please review the materials below and share your comments.
• Giri. (n.d.). Retrieved October 1, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giri_(Japanese)
• Image taken from: http://tx.english-ch.com/teacher/abby/level-c/japanesestyle-customer-service-winning/