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3 Things I Learned about Customer Experience in Japan

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Konnichiwa, everyone. Before we get into the deets, I think it’s important I explain how we define Customer Experience here at Aceable.

To help illustrate this, I want to tell a quick story from an event I attended after work last summer. Josh aka The Amish Hipster aka star and producer of Snapchat’s up-and-coming Joshing Around, was presenting at the Livestrong Foundation here in Austin and team Aceable came out to cheer him on (cause we fam). It was there I was introduced to a woman who asked what I do at Aceable. This question always makes me smirk because in my head I always think, “I do…everything. It’s a startup ”

Here’s how the exchange went:

Me: I’m on the Customer Experience team!

Her: Oh, cool. So, you’re like a Customer Success manager?

Me: Kind of, but not really.

Her: So, more like an account manager?

Me: Hm, close, but not quite.

Her: So what do you mean?

Me: Well, we do more than just ensure renewals for a customer or do periodic check-in emails with them. The CX team makes sure every touchpoint and conversation with Aceable is delightful, helpful, and just straight awesome, whether they’re a customer or not. This role is about thinking of every interaction a user has with us, and finding the empathy to help them through each of those steps.

Her: Oh, okay. I see, so it’s not just maximizing usage for your SAAS product or renewing monthly contracts. It’s the whole experience.

Me: Bingo.

Okay, back to why Japan gave me heart eyes emoji face. I don’t know what you’ve heard or read about Japan, but more than any one landmark or event, the most memorable experience to me was, by far, the people.

Here are 3 important lessons I took away from my trip to the birthplace of the emoji :

1) Make it Super Simple, and Then Make it Super Simple

It was my first trip to Japan and all the redditors expressed deep regret about not learning more Japanese before arriving. I was a little nervous, but had faith in both my ability to shove duolingo classes into my brain on the plane ride over and the friendliness of the locals/expats.

What was my secret to navigating the county? The Japanese do a fantastic job breaking instructions down into nice and easy steps. I was in awe at how many day-to-day functions and activities had a dedicated sign (and often a sweet avatar to help communicate concepts). Think Clippy from the OG Microsoft Word days.


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Takeaway: Don’t assume your customers know what to do just because you write it out. Don’t even assume text or symbols are enough to communicate new ideas or content. Context is extremely important when getting people to take action and some respond more effectively with text, and others with pictures. Illustrations combined with instructions, broken down to the simplest form help communicate complex ideas that would otherwise get "lost in translation."

2) Attitude is Everything

Airports, bus stations, ticket counters, I experienced a lot of people facing service roles along my journey. Leaving the Narita airport was my first opportunity to really slow down and notice something I rarely see here in the states.

While waiting for the bus to Tokyo, our baggage handler asked to hold my bag (which, at the time, was a risky assumption since it was in Japanese). After storing my luggage under the bus, the baggage workers bowed until the bus was out of sight. I was in shock. So much respect and pride.

I then went on to take note of every service interaction I had, from 7/11 clerks to our Airbnb host, every gesture seemed to center around extreme customer service. The attitudes about their job, whether it be driving the public city bus or delivering food to our table, had so much courtesy engrained.

Takeaway: Take pride in what you do. Whether you’re a fresh grad intern or a senior engineer, your attitude towards your job carries through and is shown in your work and felt by others around you. In the famous words of my homegirl Sherly Sandberg (yeah, we’re fb friends), Lean In on your work, regardless of what that job is. You chose to do it, so do it with pride and a sense of duty. People, hopefully your customers, will notice.

3) Enjoy the Journey

This last one is more of a self discovery and reminder than a cultural takeaway. It’s easy to get worn down by the frequent hiccups and challenges of traveling through a foreign country, but even in the most heated of moments I tried to remember why I took the time off to travel to Japan in the first place. You might’ve presumed by now that my travel buddy and I got lost many, many, many times. But, we were really in no real rush. We were on our own time and the need to be anywhere "on time" was a sense of false urgency we had fabricated in our minds. Slowing down and allowing ourselves the LUXURY of getting lost made for much more of an adventurous trip. In fact, some of the best restaurants we ate at were from traveling off the beaten path and wandering into one of the many late night alley ramen joints. Seasoned world travelers speak very intimately of this process and I’m starting to understand how powerful this is for the soul.

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Takeaway: The bumps and bruises along the way are as much as part of the experience as the final destination. If you can’t find enjoyment in the process, then you’re wildly shortchanging yourself. Aceable is very much still a startup and there are many things we have yet to figure out. I can definitely see how that would make a lot of people debilitatingly anxious, but it’s exactly why I love working here. If we can find excitement and happiness in the day-to-day ups & downs, then we're in for a really fun rocket ship ride.

Parting Notes:

My job is awesome and I’m extremely lucky to be able to take off for a week or two to go experience the world. It’s important to me to be able to have the time to disconnect, but also learn from other cultures, experiences, and individuals. In addition to the mental break, this helps me come back recharged and full of new inspiration on how we can make our customer experience here at Aceable that much more badass. Sayonara!

Krista Doyle