The Incontiguous Brick

June 14, 2007

Customer service in Japan: a lesson in humanity

Filed under: Life — iknowkeith @ 2:30 pm

A little over a year ago, I was in Japan and had a customer service experience that is worthy of a story. There is this great little hole-in-the-wall sushi place that I wanted to go to again. The restaurant is called Sususoon (we just called it “Lesbian Sushi” and if you ever get a chance to eat there and see who runs it you will know why). It had been closed for remodeling for a few months and I was not sure if they were back open yet. I looked in the English phone book, but did not see it.

I thought I had a flyer but I had no luck finding it and was only 90% sure I remembered the name correctly. I could not even find the Japanese version of 411 in the phone book. Frustrated but not ready to give up, I called the phonebook company to get the number for information.

I fully expected to get a typical American customer service response like: “you have the wrong number,” “we don’t do that,” or “I don’t have that information.”

I explained to the woman at the phonebook company that I was looking for the number for information. She asked me what I was really looking for and then took down my number.

About five minutes later I received a call back. She had called the restaurant, verified that they were open, got their hours and even how busy they were. She told me all of this (and their number) so I wouldn’t have to call them because the restaurant owner didn’t speak much English. Remember, this was not the information line, it was the phone company receptionist that you call to order a new phone book!

I was astounded. It is one thing to get extra help from someone face-to-face. But to go that far above and beyond anything I had hoped for is not what I would expect from a faceless phone voice. In that moment, I found a new respect for the Japanese people and a general embarrassment for the rest of us. In that brief encounter, she displayed more humanity than I have ever encountered from any other anonymous person.



  1. wow, I guess you’ve never been to Taco Bell. Their customer service is to die for. Have a bean burrito 😉

    Comment by Poem — June 14, 2007 @ 7:21 pm | Reply

  2. Hey this is heart warming,even i have heard a lot of instances which shows Japan as one of the best in customer service,do post more experiences if you have anymore to share

    Comment by Shruti — February 21, 2009 @ 9:52 pm | Reply

  3. “I found a new respect for the Japanese people and a general embarrassment for the rest of us.”

    You hit the nail square on the head. Japan has learned alot from the west in recent times but I beleive customer service is just one bit of evidence that suggest Japan has, since the beginning of civilization on earth, surpassed the west in the art of peaceful, harmonious and productive interaction between two people. It is high time the west learned a thing or two from Japan.

    Comment by Tony — September 19, 2009 @ 11:03 am | Reply

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