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In a recent blog, Forrester principal analyst Ryan Hart describes the exceptional hospitality of Japanese culture and suggests it as an example for organizations to emulate. Hart notes why he believes the approach is unique and effective: “This empathy-focused culture is rooted in what the Japanese call omotenashi, a spirit of unobtrusive and respectful approach to guests that anticipates their needs, bestows respect and surprises them at every point in the service scenario.”

Bowing is an integral part of Japan's approach to hospitality, or omotenashi.

Bowing is an integral part of Japan’s approach to hospitality, or omotenashi. (Photo source:

In Hart’s blog, he dismisses the idea that an omotenashi-inspired approach to customer experience is impossible to replicate outside of Japanese culture. Creating an empathy-focused company approach is absolutely achievable, he says—and we agree.

We also believe that it’s quickly becoming a necessity. Organizations today must provide more than “customer service.” In order to compete, they need to widen their lens and consider what has historically been outside of the frame—each and every interaction, from the prospect stage through to the point that they become new clients, and, ultimately, loyal customers. Organizations must create approaches that “base interactions on a relationship of equals,” “anticipate what is best for the guest before they ask for it,” and deliver “authentic, from-the-heart” service that isn’t scripted, Hart writes.

That’s omotenashi. It’s also “customer experience.”

At Vitalyst, it is the responsibility of our Customer Experience Group to curate that experience, and to identify and respond to our customers’ evolving needs. We meet this mandate with a range of efforts:

1. Making customer experience part of our company’s fabric

Because every touchpoint is a part of customer experience—training, marketing, sales, billing and more—each and every one of our employees needs to view their business through the customer experience lens. Getting every department and every employee on board enables us to demonstrate the full value of customer experience as a discipline.

2. Exceeding expectations

Today, organizations need to exceed customer expectations, not just meet them. Providing friendly, quick resolutions to customers’ pressing problems helps them to work and be productive, but only temporarily. Identifying the causes of their problems and finding lasting solutions enables them to sustain their productivity and increase their efficiency.

For us, that means training our staff in both technical and people skills. Mastery of the latest software is just as critical as the ability to be attentive, intuitive, empathetic and proactive.

3. Embracing the future, and change

The enterprise technology landscape is constantly shifting, and so are customers’ needs. New devices and technologies, the maturation of social media as a business tool, the increasing availability of data and user-friendly analysis tools—these are a few of the factors driving change.

By increasing our companywide concentration on the customer experience, we are better able to anticipate our customers’ changing needs. We’re also nimbler and more focused on feedback—knowing what to measure, how often, and how to create value from it.

Mastery of the latest software is just as critical as the ability to be attentive, intuitive, empathetic and proactive.

Today, earning the designation of best-in-class for customer service is no longer enough. That’s why we are pushing beyond traditional customer service and finding inspiration in broader customer experience approaches like omotenashi. It may be an ancient practice, but its principles—and those of any holistic, empathy-based approach to customer experience—are quite modern, and exactly what organizations need to compete in the present and the future.

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