Customer Service Q&A: I sprung this one on my father

While sitting in the local Nepalese restaurant with my dad, we were enjoying our butter chicken curry and our spicy tandoori when I sprung a quick interview about customer service on him. Conversations like this don’t happen very often, so I wanted to take this opportunity to find out a bit more about my dad and what he thought about the values of the company I am currently aspiring to work at. He was born in Wisconsin and came to Japan in his early 30’s. He has five daughters and loves to write. The interview was simple, and I had a lot of fun asking him the questions.

When you were younger, did you do anything related to customer service?


Not at all? Not even a bar or something?

Oh yeah, I did that when I was younger.

How was that?

I hated it.


People are jerks, and it stunk like smoke all the time. There were a lot of rude people.

Was this in Wisconsin? There weren’t any other customer service jobs?

I worked at a flouring company as well. I was the manager of a warehouse.

Did you learn anything interesting while you were there?

Yeah, that if I keep doing this I will have a sore back. The stuff was heavy.

What are the customer service difference between American and Japan?

I think in Japan its more formal and ceremonial.

The Buffer Values and my dad’s take on them:

  1. Choose Positivity 

Do what you like. Try to make every situation positive. Try to learn something.

  1. Default to Transparency

Yeah, thats a good idea. They should tell everybody about what’s going on. Don’t keep any secrets.

  1. Focus on Self-Improvment

You got to always try harder I guess.

  1. Be a no-ego doer

We all have an ego.

  1. Listen first, then listen more

You should do more listening than talking.

  1. Communicate with Clarity

To be clear. I’d like to have everything clear, otherwise how do you know what’s happening? You don’t want to be in a fog. You will have accidents if you are in a fog.

  1. Make time to reflect

See how things went in the past and see wants going on. How things are working. Ask yourself, did this work for me? Thats what memories are for. Other things can be to watch your reflection in the mirror, stretching, et cetera.

  1. Live Smarter, Not Harder

Yeah, I agree wight hat one 100%, thats my motto. I’m going to tattoo that on my forehead. Why would you want to do everything the harder way?

  1. Show gratitude

Simple stuff. Compliments. Say something nice. Depends who you are talking to but saying thank you is the easiest.

  1. Do the right thing

Do the right thing! Good idea. What would the right thing be? The right thing would be to do things that you love, but don’t hurt other people.


Customer Service Q&A. A chat with an artist friend from the neighborhood

IMG_0337One night after running up and down a hill in our neighborhood for exercise with a good friend from the area, I managed to get him to have a quick conversation about his experiences in customer service.

The following will be snapshots of our conversation and tidbits of speech that I enjoyed listening to.

My friend is from the States and we had the chat in my kitchen in Nara, Japan.

Johnna: Have you ever worked in customer service? What was it like for you to work in the States?

Brendan: I worked at the front-end of a warehouse at a Sears. Whenever people had problems with lawn mowers or snow blowers, they would come to me and ask how to fix it.

What was the most difficult part about the job at the time?

Brendan: That people would come to me with problems that I would have no idea how to solve.

Were there customers that you had to hold your patience for?

Brendan: Oh yeah, all the time. I worked in a Sears and it was out in the country. Angry shoppers would come to me with problems and not be happy that the person that they had to talk to was an 18-year old kid.

Would you ever lose your temper?

Brendan: There were days that I wanted to. We had a big trash compacter to take out our frustrations with. We would throw in things like computers and televisions and watch the machine break down all the trash. It did help to release the tensions of the day. I am pretty good at staying calm though.

Did you have any co-workers that you admired for their customer service expertise? 

Brendan: I had a lot of co-workers that knew a lot about what they were selling. When you understand your product, it is easier to deal with people that ask you questions. If you don’t know what you are talking about, it’s a lot harder to walk them through it.

What do you think the differences in customer service are between Japan and America?

Brendan: For one, there is customer service here.(Laughs) No, I’m joking. The thing about the service here in Japan is that when you have a problem, every person working in the store rushes in to help and stands there looking like they are doing something, which is good and bad sometimes. If I have a problem that takes one person to solve, I don’t need four people come and help me with it.

I was in the library and asked if they had any books in English. I waited a half an hour while five people walked about looking. If just one of those people knew, the job would have been done. In America, the conversation would have gone something like: “Hey John, we got any books in Japanese?” ……… “Nope, sorry Phil”.

The interesting thing about the customer service in Japan is the way they address the people that come into the store. At the end of names they have many endings such as -san, -chan, -kun. But those that come into shops or or those with a higher position have the -sama ending. It is the same ending used for God as well. Okyaku-sama (customer), Kami-sama(God).

Brendan: Oh, thats interesting. I didn’t know that. I don’t know how I feel about being treated as a God though.

Changing the subject a bit, what do you think about people who are overly enthusiastic about helping you or serving you?

Brendan: If people over-do their enthusiasm, it breaks the illusion of their helping me. They are being super nice because they want my tip money or they want their boss to think they are doing their job. I would be happy with a simple, “Thanks for coming, have a good night”. If they act normally, then its believable. If they are over the top then its clear that it’s an act.

What if they are just really happy people? What if it is just their personality? 

Brendan: You can tell, I can tell, and most people can tell when people are faking it or being genuine. Some people make it clear that they are trying to make a good impression for a reason. They have a goal in mind.

Again, going off the topic, but so far from what I’ve told you, what do you think of Buffer?

Brendan: It seems like they genuinely care. Their Number One concern is how their customers feel about them and their product. It seems like they put a lot more effort in that part of the company than others do. If you call the customer service at Apple for example, they send you to a separate company that takes care of the details for them. The joke in America is that if you call a company for customer service support, you get forwarded to different country where the people on the other end of the phone speaks English as their second language.

It seems like the people at Buffer have their employees in the company actually talk to their customers. In short, from what I know so far it doesn’t seem like a bad place at all.

Customer Service Q&A. My twin answers my questions.

Lately I find myself fascinated with customer service and how to improve my own performance when it comes to dealing with customers and the people that we are around everyday.

So I turned to my sister this afternoon and I sat her down for a quick question and answer session to see what she thought about customer service.

My sister, Reylia Slaby, is a professional photographer who has quite an impressive resume’. She also helps out at a restaurant in down-town Osaka called Bistro New Orleans. Because of her current situation in having to build relationships with people daily, I thought she would be a good person to start off this mini series with.

12047394_10153115180100778_1509823996_nHi Reylia. Have a sit and let me ask you a few questions. Are there some things that you have done that can fall within the realm of customer service?

I have my own photography business, and I also do a bit of restaurant work. Seeing how customer service works in my own photography business is a bit more subtle, but in the restaurant it is obvious how it comes into play.

Is there anything that you have learned at the restaurant when it comes to dealing with a customer?

Because customer service is so emphasized in Japan, there aren’t too many things I’ve learned yet that I didn’t know before starting. Things like presentation, packaging, and the rhythm of the work were new skills that I learned, but when it comes to customer service I feel like there are things that are just a given. It’s obvious what good service is.

When it comes to the customers, what are some thoughts that you have while working?

I want people to feel comfortable, relaxed, and to have a good time. I want people to have good memories in the restaurant.

Is it difficult to be genuine in a job where you go through the same patterns each day?

I think you can be bored, tired or rundown, but the workers can still be genuine even if the job becomes routine. Customer service works in other directions too. It’s about making people feel good. It’s not limited to the customers either, but the workers in those jobs also have to feel well-treated as respected. It’s all about creating an atmosphere of harmony.

People wonder why service can below par these days, but one culprit I believe is that the inner workings and philosophies of the companies are negative and quite possibly corrupt. So many companies these days don’t value a healthy working ethic, and settle to hire those whose work performance they know to be lazy or poor.

It’s also important to cultivate kindness in the workspace. Everyone should give encouragement.
It’s a shame that we have this idea that we can’t have friends at work or we can’t be friends with our bosses. I don’t think that working hierarchy should exist.

Changing the topic slightly, but what do you think about the company Buffer?

It sounds amazing and like something you would be good at. I believe that you do cultivate good feelings and the person across from you feels cared for.

Do you think their transparency policy helps?

It helps a lot. It’s hard to be honest, especially for a company. In fact, its almost impossible for a company to be 100% honest these days. So I give them tops.

What do you think I personally need to work on?

You are good at diving into something and giving it your whole heart. But, once you’ve reached where you believe to be the top, you move to something different. If it doesn’t continue to satisfy or fulfill you, you move on to other things that will. I believe that this trait can be used to a companies advantage, although.

What is one quote that comes to your head right now? Any quote related or non-related is fine!

Very unrelated, but one quote I like these days is that “Art is not a healer, it’s an x-ray that helps you to understand pain.”