🌸Japanese Customer : Article: Business Lessons from a Japanese 🌸 bath house


April 22, 2022

Article: Business Lessons from a Japanese 🌸 bath house

japanese bath house #japanesecustomer

Photo: A typical Japanese bath

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As a small-business owner, I have found business insights or
'light bulb' moments can arrive anytime: lining up at the
supermarket check-out, driving and listening to the radio or
– rewardingly - when you are experiencing something new for the first time.

Insight hits with a flash. You walk away feeling enlightened, empowered, with a different mindset. I had such a moment on a recent trip to Japan when I visited a local bathhouse.

"The business side of a bathhouse is fascinating"

In fact, I had many such moments. History is full of stories of inspiration hitting in the bath but at this bathhouse, it was not just the bathing – it was the whole elaborate ritual (and commercial) experience that provided insight into what makes a successful business model.

Japan has many public bathhouses and they can be classified into two main types, onsens, which derive their water from a natural source, and sentos, which use regular heated water. In Japan, it is common for people of all ages to visit a bathhouse, as a way to relax or unwind after a busy day or as a leisurely day out.

At the start of the 19th century, many homes in Japan didn't have baths and a whole industry of providing bathing services began and it has grown into a lucrative business. Although many modern houses now have baths, people still like to visit a bathhouse with a natural spring. It is an experience and many say the water has a different quality on their skin.

Venturing to use a bathhouse for the first time is a unique experience and one that takes patience, curiosity, and perseverance. There are very precise rules and etiquette. When taking a Japanese bath you wash before you enter the bath.

The business side of a bathhouse is fascinating. When you pay at many bathhouses, the transaction is processed by a vending machine. Inserting notes and pushing a few buttons, your admission tickets are delivered along with your change (And the machines always work).

This automation is replicated throughout the bathhouse with vending machines for drinks, snacks, and restaurant meals.

Insight 1:

Automated processes can provide seamless convenience for customers.

With a vending machine, you can create a receipt, buy multiple tickets at a discounted rate and reduce the need to wait and carry money.

As my Japanese father-in-law often says when using vending machines, “totemo benri desu" - they are very convenient!

That's another obvious but often forgotten insight:

How can you enhance and add value to your customer's experience?

Something which strikes you immediately when you visit a bathhouse is how happy the customers are. No glum faces here. The same feeling is often found when visiting a bustling sushi shop.

As a customer, you can't ignore this positive atmosphere which slowly becomes contagious.

Insight 2:

What are the touchpoints in your business that can make your customers happy and really satisfied?

With all this automation I bet you're wondering why do they need staff at all? Well, believe it or not, there is still plenty of staff on hand within a bathhouse. Staff is busy at the front reception desk watching customers using the vending machines, roaming the rooms, and in a variety of other positions throughout.

Insight 3:

Having visible staff provides reassurance to customers that 'help and service' are just a few steps away.

Cleanliness is an important value in Japanese culture and at a typical bathhouse the floors, walls, facilities, and baths are immaculately maintained. Staff constantly roam and mop up any spills, silently and quickly with no fuss.

Insight 4:

A clean environment conveys to customers and attention to detail that words can't.

My impression is running a bathhouse seems like a very complex business, as they must create an intimate place that allows people to relax. No easy feat! How can you do this when people have such busy lives, limited time, and pay a modest price for the service?

My sense is the key to a successful bathhouse is the ambiance, and how you set the mood.

Insight 5:

How can you set the mood and ambiance for your customers?

On a typical afternoon, a bathhouse can attract many customers. Yet as the number of new customers increases, the flow and movement are still calm, orderly, and for the most part, silent. How do they do this?

Insight 6:

Good systems can control the flow and interaction of customers. What systems do you have in place for really busy periods and how do your customers feel?

When you visit a bathhouse you quickly learn there are no written rules on the walls of what 'to do' and what 'not to do' but everyone seems to know what to do. If you're a new customer, you just watch what others do and copy. How do you use a vending machine to pay, how do you operate a massage chair, and how do you put away your shoes? In Japan, this system, like so much else, just works.

Insight 7:

Is your way of operating easy to follow? How do new customers learn your procedures? Do you have a way to let your existing customers educate your new customers?

After leaving the changing room during my recent visit, I grabbed a cushion and sat down on the reed flooring in the cool-down room. My father-in-law gave me a small bottle of chilled milk. It is customary to have a cold drink after a bath to replenish lost nutrients and fresh milk is a popular way to do this. Bathhouses provide a range of unrelated services that all contribute to the overall customer experience including massage chairs, complimentary toiletries, restaurants, cooling down rooms, massage therapists, steam rooms, and even shoehorns.

Insight 8:

What additional products or services could enhance your product or service?

Bathing is an ancient custom in Japan that provides a chance to take a few hours out of your day to really relax. The natural heat from the bath relieves the built-up stress stored in muscles and allows your body to recharge. The real way to discover the impact a bath has had is the new feeling you leave with. For many Japanese customers, a bath is a time to reflect and in my case, a chance to gain some new business insights.

ANZ Blue Notes

#bath #japan #japaneseculture #culturalintelligence #business #cx #japanesecustomer