For most of us, there’s a great deal about the job and the workplace which gets us out of bed on a Monday morning and there’s also plenty which has us looking forward to Friday afternoons too! But every now and then there’s moment in your working life which is truly special and will stay with you forever. Well, I enjoyed just such a moment the other week when I delivered a new Lexus IS 300h to the UK ambassador of Japan Koji Tsuruoka.
It was an honour and a privilege (if a bit nerve-wracking) to hand over the vehicle at the Japanese Embassy in Piccadilly.
You may have read a piece by my general manager Diana Mackinnon which explains the renowned Japanese hospitality omotenashi and here I was expected to deliver exactly that to the Japanese ambassador!
However, the experience couldn’t have been more of an eye-opener. I was indeed worried of making a faux pas without even realising and was very conscious of adopting an extremely polite persona. What I discovered is that omotenashi works both ways.
Perhaps it’s a hang up of us Brits and the idea of doffing one’s cap to the gentry which is still very much engrained in our culture that when we are delivering a service, the respect and courteousness emanates from the service provider to the service receiver. Now most of us would remember our pleases and thank-yous towards the waiting staff when out for dinner and in any other number of circumstances when we are being provided a service, so I don’t mean us Brits forget our manners as soon as we become the customer or client, but there is an expectation that the service providers act in a certain way and us the recipients or customers politely accept that level of service.
That relationship is very different in the Japanese culture. Yes, omnitenashi is the very epitome of Japanese hospitality, service and politeness, but customers and clients are equally as respectful and polite to the service givers.
Indeed, it was an honour to give the ambassador a personal introduction to his new Lexus and customising and tailoring some of the features to meet his requirements. However, the biggest impact on me was being treated with equal courtesy and genuine respect by the ambassador and the Japanese representatives from Toyota/Lexus GB. It was this which made the experience a genuine privilege.
I was made to feel as though I was an extremely important and valuable part of the entire process especially when the ambassador invited us to celebrate the delivery with him in the beautiful Garden Room of the embassy itself.
When the ambassador’s office took the time to thank Makoto Ito, the chairman and CEO of Jemca, the parent company of Lexus Edgware Road, for our customer service who in turn thanked my general manager and contacted me personally praising us for our attention to detail, it made the experience even more special.
Koji Tsuruoka took up his position as the new ambassador in UK in June and all of us at Lexus Edgware Road would like to wish him the very best for his time in London.
In his initial address on the embassy’s website he commented: “As Japan is hosting the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, I imagine there will be compelling reasons for more British people to want to visit Japan. Our aim is to serve the interests of both Japanese citizens in the UK and British people who are interested in Japan, and my embassy will dedicate itself to nurturing effective communication between our two countries and peoples.”
In an interview Mr Tsuruoka revealed he is a keen golfer and is looking forward to visiting Scotland, in particular, St Andrews which he described as ‘the jewel in the crown of golf’.
Picture caption: (L-R) Makoto Ito, chairman & CEO, Jemca; Koji Tsuruoka, UK ambassador of Japan; Yusuke Takane, sales planning manager, Toyota GB; and Hideaki Homma, technical general manager, Toyota Motor Europe.