Your Company's Phone Number: Who Answers It?  

Your Company's Phone Number: Who Answers It?  

Businesses worldwide are opting for chatbots vs. humans as a low-cost option to a live phone-in reception desk. However, in Japan, a recent survey shows customers have a distinct preference for speaking to a real person. 

Consumers and Corporations: Communication Fact-Finding Survey (trans. title), published in December 2020, was conducted online by Trans-cosmos Inc., receiving answers from approximately 3,000 respondents. 

The survey’s findings provide thought-provoking data for those who are wrestling with what to do with your Japanese business phone number and whether to hire a full-time phone receptionist for staffing your company's call-in reception desk. 

Phone calls, the primary way Japanese contact a company

In Trans-cosmos Inc.'s survey, respondents revealed that "calling by phone" remains the primary way Japanese customers get in touch with businesses, with 77% of those surveyed listing that as their first choice for contacting a service. 

  1. Phone 77%

  2. Official website (PC) 76%

  3. In-person store visit 75%

  4. Official website (smartphones) 72%

  5. Official SNS accounts 32%

  6. Messaging apps 25%

  7. Chatbots 25%

How Japanese Customers Get In Touch With Businesses

Additionally, 90% of the customers voted for the smartphone as the gadget of choice when they contact a company.

There are many possible reasons why customers in Japan prefer phone service. Japan has an aging demographic, and individuals in a higher age demographic appear to prefer the phone as the primary means of contacting a company. Furthermore, getting gold-star treatment is easier to experience when talking with a representative vs. texting a chatbot. 

This percentage may shift in the future, as younger-aged respondents showed a preference for messaging and chatbots. However, for now, the reality is that most Japanese customers will try to contact businesses by phone. 

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Long wait times, a leading source of customer dissatisfaction

Troubleshooting problems is an essential aspect of customer service in Japan

When respondents to Trans-cosmos Inc.'s survey were asked if they were satisfied with the overall troubleshooting process of the customer support they received in the recent past, 57% said they were satisfied and 43% were dissatisfied. 

The top 2 reasons given for dissatisfaction were:

  1. It took too long 62%

  2. I couldn't get the needed information or solution 31%

Top Reasons for Customer Dissatisfaction

Reason #1 underscores how essential prompt service is to the Japanese customer.

In a follow-up question, respondents felt that if the process for reaching customer service were less tedious, they would have a better image of the brand (58%), likely proceed to buying a product (47%), and become a returning customer (38%). Happy customers and unhappy customers both said they would report their experience to family and friends.

Unique challenges for foreign business owners 

In Japan, the "customer is king" concept is translated to "The customer is god." 

This attitude is widely embraced by every type of business and industry in Japan. For foreign companies looking to compete, this sets a high bar for providing the level of customer support that consumers here are familiar with. 

In a survey conducted and published by American Express International Inc. in 2017, respondents were asked whether they'd take their business elsewhere if they had one bad experience. Among 9 countries surveyed, Japanese respondents had the severest response to a bad customer experience by a wide margin. 

Percentage of individuals who answered in the affirmative to "I take my business elsewhere after one bad service experience."

  • Japan: 56%

  • U.K.: 37%

  • Singapore: 33%

  • Canada: 32%

  • U.S.: 32%

  • Italy: 32%

  • India: 31%

  • Mexico: 30%

  • Hong Kong: 23%

I Take My Business Elsewhere After One Bad Service Experience

The report noted that although Japanese people would look at the product's quality above all else when shopping, their expectation for politeness from customer service scored the highest among all other countries in the survey.  

While this survey doesn't focus on phone service alone, it's a good indicator of what the Japanese expect from customer service in general. 

This high bar for customer service, combined with a preference for phone support as the method of contacting companies when they run into a problem, presents challenges to Japan's foreign-owned businesses. 

Hiring a bilingual receptionist full-time is a costly enterprise. The alternative is that you operate your phone number yourself. But your time is precious. And what if your Japanese is limited?

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A virtual solution: a Receptionist service

Your company or service in Japan needs a business phone number that potential clients and customers can call. 

A virtual receptionist service provides you with remote native Japanese bilingual staff, who can receive, forward, and handle your calls. 

What is a virtual receptionist service? It is your business phone number, staffed by remote receptionists, letting you find leads and prospective clients, nurture them, and establish yourself as a Japan-based business. Using a virtual receptionist service in Japan, you will be able to capitalize on each call-in and create a powerful first impression of your business with native Japanese bilingual receptionists on standby. 

TokyoMate is now providing live bilingual phone desk service to foreign business owners in Japan. Their Receptionist service plan includes:

  • A Japanese telephone number for your business

  • A phone number with a Tokyo area code (03)

  • A live receptionist service, from 10 AM to 6 PM (closed for 1 hour during lunchtime)*

  • Unlimited calls during reception desk's "Open Hours" 

  • Your business number answered by bilingual native Japanese 

*Receptionist service is closed during Japan's national holidays and on the weekends.

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