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What the Apartment Industry Can Learn from Japanese Customer Service

japanese customer service apartment industry

Japan is famous for many things, however it isn’t Godzilla or sushi that the apartment industry should be paying attention to. Japan exports something that multifamily professionals should be buying in bulk and it’s called Omotenashi.

Omotenashi is defined as selfless hospitality to one’s guest. During Tokyo’s winning 2020 Olympic bid, spokesperson Christel Takigawa promised that Tokyo would offer athletes and tourists alike a “unique welcome … One that dates back to our ancestors, yet is ingrained in Japan’s ultra-modern culture. ‘Omotenashi’ explains why Japanese people take care of each other and our guests so well.”

So how can America’s apartment industry translate Japanese hospitality into their leasing practices? Below we have listed five easy ways!

1. The Welcome

When you walk into a Japanese store or restaurant the first thing you will hear is an audible welcome from the staff. This style of greeting is completely Japanese in it’s nature because it goes far beyond the typical American “eye contact” and quiet greeting” most customers get state-side. While the boisterous Japanese-style greeting may seem out of place in a leasing office, you may be surprised at the impression it can make on potential residents. After they visit multiple apartment communities during an apartment hunt, which office will the remember the most?  That is correct, the one that was overly excited to see them walk in the door!

2. Make Each Encounter The Best It Can Be

Ichi-go ichi-e” (“one time, one meeting”) is a Japanese saying that refers to making each and every encounter with a customer be the best it can possibly be. In the world of Japanese business transactions there are no small events, every encounter deserves the business person’s best self present. This includes paying attention to tiny details such as professional dress. cleanliness of the office and property curb appeal.

3. Ambiance

When you go into a Japanese business one of the first things you will notice is the pleasant feeling that you get in being there. Ambiance is something Japan takes very seriously. Sometimes it may seem as though a professional artist was hired to make the space look accidentally artsy and modern. And, the truth is there probably was an actual artist involved. A visit to your local home decor store may not be enough to achieve that perfect leasing office ambiance that will make your potential residents feel great when the walk into the space. Hire a professional to get your ambiance just right.

4. Make it Count Outside the Office

The maintenance team plays as much importance in Omotenashi as the leasing staff does. In Japan there are traffic wardens standing outside of all the shops making sure customers make it safely to wherever they want to go, even on the slowest of traffic days. Train your maintenance staff to interact with residents and future residents in a friendly and enthusiastic manner. Sometimes they are the last person from the property a potential resident sees as they are walking back to their car.

5. The Goodbye

As with the Japanese verbal greeting, the goodbye is also given much attention. It is not out of place to see a shopkeeper carrying bags out of their place of business for the customer. “Bowing” is also customary after a transaction is made in Japan. While “bowing” would be a bit off-putting in an American leasing office, you can still find ways to acknowledge with gratitude the exiting of a potential resident. Make it a positive experience to the very end.

The apartment industry employs some of the best individuals in customer service. However, even the best can stand to benefit from studying the hospitality habits of the Japanese. Consider adding these little influences to the training of your leasing professionals and maintenance staff and see big returns in resident happiness and new leases!


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