Automation plays an important role in targeting marketing messages on the right channels at the right moment. Automation speeds up the interaction with customers, tracks customer behaviors, and allows you to tailor your messages. However, automated technology won’t compensate for weak messages. What is needed is a mindset toward delivering hospitality that, in a sense, serves as a lubricant for automation.
The most important ingredient in generating a great customer experience is Omotenashi—that is, putting heart and soul into giving good service. In my previous post, I described how Omotenashi can enhance your marketing personalization and optimization. In this post, I would like to make the strong connection between relationship marketing and Omotenashi and explain why it is essential to your marketing strategy now.
Omotenashi Touches Emotions
Let me explain. I recently had an experience with Google Photos that moved me emotionally in its attempt to provide a “solution” to the application of saved photos.
Many people have photos that may be similar to other photos, yet they hesitate to delete them. Not only does Google Photos provide unlimited storage space, but it will also transform a series of static photos into an album, collage, or animation. When Google Photos automatically animated static photos of my baby’s first steps into an animated gif, I was ecstatic. The new automated animation pops up in my Google Photos Assistant page, and I feel the Omotenashi treatment of the service.
Omotenashi can help to solve a customer’s hidden or unknown “problems.” Businesses that keep customers on track with their purchases anticipate various ways to serve them, touching consumers in unique ways and sparking emotions. When a company sparks positive emotions by offering a product or service automatically—before the customer even requests it—the impact is tangible, and the marketing efforts are soon rewarded.
A number of companies are practicing Omotenashi to engage with their customers on a more emotional level. Here are a few examples:
- United Kingdom retailer Tesco sends out baby product coupons to shoppers who have recently purchased diapers. However, Tesco sends coupons not only for baby products but also for beer, specifically geared toward the fathers. Tesco’s “data analysis revealed that new fathers tend to buy more beer, because they are spending less time at the pub” after the baby is born.
- A Netflix service representative added a humorous touch to an Omotenashi customer experience. The rep received notice from a customer who was having difficulties streaming one of the shows and saw from the customer’s profile that he was a Star Trek fan. So, the rep acknowledged the problem and respectfully phrased the entire conversation in Star Trek lingo. The happy customer enjoyed the interaction so much that he shared his experience with many others.
- Xbox is the “most responsive brand on social media,” according to Guinness World Records. The company employs a team to respond to Twitter messages. During the hours listed at @XboxSupport, customers can tweet their problems instead of calling a customer service line. Service reps scan the site regularly and respond to customer issues quickly. These responses are also available to other customers who might have similar questions or face the same issues in the future.
Omotenashi Frames the Product as a Solution
Omotenashi goes way beyond service. It is more than a manual or guidelines telling you how to respond to your customers. It is action that comes from your heart, answering customers in the same manner in which you would like to be treated if you were a customer.
Amazon provides millions of books and other products, but that is not the only attraction for its customers. People continue to use Amazon because of its automated personalization services. For example, let’s say you want to buy a book that a friend recommended, not remembering that you had purchased it some years ago. As you place the item into your Amazon shopping cart, a message pops, “Instant Order Update: You purchased this item on June 22, 2012.” Amazon just saved you money! Rarely would you enjoy the same customer experience at your friendly neighborhood bookstore, even if the employees were able to remember your previous order.
Uber is another example of Omotenashi. Uber delivers an excellent customer experience by providing rides without requiring the customer to wait too long on the street. Uber is taking the Omotenashi practice even further by expanding into food and medical supply delivery and a multitude of other tasks. Plans are even underway to allow you to share your Google Calendar with Uber, so a car can be at your door in time to take you to a scheduled meeting or appointment, combining an excellent customer experience with the technology of automation.
Omotenashi in Advertisement
Today, advertisements reflect what matters to a company’s prospects or customers, because speaking to a felt need or desire has more power than simply informing others about your products or services. I believe that today’s most powerful advertisements stir customers’ emotions. One of the most powerful advertising outlets doing this is Google Ads.
The concept of Google Ads is relatively simple and is based on the quality score—a combination of “expected clickthrough rate, ad relevance and landing page experience”—and how much it costs to place that keyword. This simple formula practically sets the stage for Omotenashi because highly relevant search results create a sense of customer trust; therefore, the advertiser can practice Omotenashi via the ad’s message.
A search query will give you what you want. What might annoy you are retargeting ads or ads without an algorithm to evaluate who you are and what you are looking for. Often, there is a fine line between the customer being amazed or turned off by the perfect ad appearing during their search. And sometimes, Google Ads can be used in reverse to create a prime example of Omotenashi in action as in the case of senior copywriter Alec Brownstein, who landed his dream job through an innovative use Google AdWords.
Anticipating a need, creating a solution, and providing information for that solution is Omotenashi.
Successful Marketing with Omotenashi
Brad Rencher, Senior Vice President of Adobe Digital Marketing, once said, “Experience is brand now.” Previous marketing strategies, such as the 4P model, are no longer the main reason for consumers to purchase. My Google Photo experience was touching without pushing. This type of service provides value without promotion, delivering what customers need before they even know they need it. Today, with access to infinitely more purchasing options, customers have the power to decide how, when, and whether they will do business with a particular company. That is why it is important to get in front of the ultimate transaction and provide this form of hospitality, or Omotenashi, to the customer first.
As marketers, we are really good at capturing the necessary data about our customers, but that data is hard to leverage without automation to drive more personalized interactions with our customers. Automation seems far from Omotenashi, but it is essential to help us focus on customer-centric marketing. When used in the context of relationship marketing, it is best defined as bringing value to the customer.
In my next post, I will explore how you can be an Omotenashi expert and what actions you need to take to practice Omotenashi successfully with your customers.