Tokyo is all but preparing for the upcoming Olympic Games in 2020. A big part of these preparations is hiring staff who is able to speak multiple languages, especially at shops and department stores.
This is important not only to make shopping for tourists more comfortable but also to convey the genuine experience of Japan’s famed hospitality. What exactly does that mean, though, how is this hospitality different from simply offering the standard customer service? To find out more about it, we asked the multilingual top staff of Tokyo’s most famous department stores.
Takashimaya Watch Maison: A Watch Concierge with Outstanding Language Skills
Nihonbashi Takashimaya is one of Tokyo’s long-established department store giants, a must-visit for tourists from all over the world. Its Watch Maison is an annex to the main store, handling innumerable brands and making it one of the best watch specialty stores in the world.
This is Kanako Toyama, the watch concierge at Takashimaya Watch Maison. She worked as a flight attendant for 13 years before joining Takashimaya. She’s a top staff who is dedicated to conveying Japan’s famous hospitality through her international customer service skills she learned high above the ground, multiple languages, and her extensive knowledge about watches.
Ms. Toyama speaks Japanese, English, and Chinese. She herself says that she is most fluent in English – disregarding her native tongue, of course – but has learned a decent amount of Chinese from living in Beijing for a while. Curious as we are, we wanted to know more about the kind of customer service that a watch concierge offers.
Understanding the Different Needs of Different People
“Watches are generally expensive, so we explain each product in detail until the customer is thoroughly informed and genuinely wants to buy it. That goes for every customer, Japanese as well as abroad. Explaining the watch’s mechanism and functions in the customer’s language is important, as well as a consciousness about country- and culture-specific tastes. For that, I do not stick to the brand but advise the customer in regard to their needs and desires.”
Ms. Toyama’s customer service is all about being aware of a customer’s unique taste and needs – this doesn’t only differ from country to country, but also from person to person.
“When I recommend a certain watch and see the face of my customer light up, I genuinely feel a sense of satisfaction, as if I had found the correct answer to a difficult question. ‘Yes, this is it!’ This is always the moment that makes me the happiest. You keep a watch for a long time, so we are really trying our best to help our customers to make a decision that comes from their heart.”
Takashimaya Watch Maison doesn’t only offer various brands but also a lot of high-class products. Those are rarely cheap, so watch concierges like Ms. Toyama are committed to thoroughly informing their customers and always try to make recommendations to the best of their knowledge. Getting this kind of support while deciding on a purchase will certainly help to make a confident decision!
Seibu Shibuya: Hospitality Means Going the Extra Mile
Shibuya is known as Tokyo’s pioneer area for youth culture and fashion, thus drawing in tourists from all over the world as one of the city’s absolute must-visit spots.
The department store Seibu Shibuya is located just a short walk away from the large Shibuya Station and its landmark, the statue of the faithful dog Hachiko. This commercial facility has dedicated itself to the creativity that Shibuya is so famous for, striving to become “one giant art project.”
At Seibu’s information desk, Rumi Fujimaki helps customers from all over the world to navigate the large facility every day. She also has once worked as a flight attendant and just joined Seibu department store in June 2017. On top of providing information and guidance, she also takes care of the tax exemption service for international tourists.
Ms. Fujimaki speaks Japanese, English, and Spanish. Because she works at the tax information desk that also offers tax exemption service at Seibu’s B Building, she meets a lot of international tourists on a daily base. We wanted to know more about her work and her experiences.
Customer Service Under the Philosophy of “What Else Can I Do?”
“When I speak to customers at the information desk, I emphasize eye contact and pay attention to their facial expressions, always assuming that there might be something else that I can do for them. The guidance staff needs to always be up-to-date with everything that is going on in the department store and we regularly check the individual shops to confirm new arrivals, what is in stock and what is not, and so on. I try to see as much as possible with my own eyes and memorize it to help my customers with reliable information.”
Ms. Fujimaki says that she operates under the theme of “what else can I do,” a service philosophy that comes from her experience as a flight attendant. She explains more about this way of thinking.
“We’re not just there for guidance but also act as a sort of security personnel to guarantee safety. The information desk is like the ‘doorway to a department store’ and keeping an eye out for anything suspicious is part of our job. While welcoming you with warm
hospitality, we always stay aware of the surroundings, because our mission is to let customers enjoy shopping with confidence, comfort, and satisfaction.”
Ms. Fujimaki’s job is not only to inform but also to make shopping fun and safe. The top staff of Shibuya’s Seibu Department Store does her job so sincerely and with a warm kindness, she certainly appears like a personification of Japanese hospitality.
21-1, Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-8330
Shibuya Station （JR Shonan Shinjuku Line / JR Yamanote Line / JR Saikyo Line / Tokyo Metro Ginza Line / Tokyo Metro Hanzomon Line / Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin Line / Tokyu Toyoko Line / Tokyu Den-en-toshi Line / Keio Inokashira Line）
- Phone Number 03-3462-0111
- Address 21-1, Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-8330
Hospitality Goes International – Language Breaks Down Every Barrier
Talking to Ms. Toyama and Ms. Fujimaki made one thing very clear: it doesn’t matter where you’re from, Japanese hospitality is the same wonderful experience for everyone. International tourists are treated with the same respectful kindness and sincerity that Japanese people love about their service – the only thing that changes is the language. The next time you’re in Shibuya or Nihonbashi, why not stop by at Takashimaya Watch Maison or Seibu’s information desk and say hello to the friendly concierges to experience the magic of Japanese hospitality for yourself?
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