Effective ecommerce customer service is the linchpin of your operations. How you handle customer inquiries can make or break your brand, especially in Japan, a market known for its high standards.

To tap into the vast potential of Japan's online shopping landscape, you must master the art of tailored customer service.

In this blog post, we'll explore how you can offer outstanding customer service and make it the game-changer that propels your ecommerce brand to success in Japan.

*This article is a part of our latest series, 'Localize your ecommerce brand in Japan' to help international brands expand to Japan. Find more here:

Understanding Japanese Consumer Preferences and Expectations in Customer Service

Japan has its own unique hospitality culture, which refers to the deeply ingrained cultural norms and practices in Japan that prioritize exceptional customer service, politeness, and attentiveness in various aspects of daily life. This culture places a strong emphasis on the customer's experience and satisfaction, whether in a business setting or personal interactions.

Now, let's explore the challenges international brands encounter when striving to offer outstanding customer service for Japanese consumers.

1. Diversified Customer Needs for Quality

Japanese consumers are known for being very selective when it comes to choosing products.  They have high standards for the quality and features of the products they purchase. This means that they expect the products they buy to be of top-notch quality.

Before making a purchase, there can be concerns or uncertainties when considering a product on an ecommerce website. In this case, customer support serves as a tool to address these uncertainties and resolving questions about products or services, helping hesitant customers make informed decisions.

2. Expectation of Good Customer Service as the Norm

It's essential to recognize that the foundation for a successful business expansion into Japan lies in providing high-quality, native Japanese customer support. Moreover, Japanese consumers hold the expectation of exceptional customer service alongside their purchases. This encompasses courteous and attentive interactions with customer service representatives, prompt responses to inquiries, and effective issue resolution.

Japanese consumers perceive receiving excellent customer service as a given, with only 35% showing a willingness to pay a premium for exceptional service, the lowest among surveyed nationalities. Despite the generally high level of service provided by companies, only 45% of consumers feel that they receive the level of customer service they expect. This suggests that there is room for improvement in meeting customer service expectations in Japan. (American Express's survey, 2014)

3. Desire for "Human Touch" in Service

Japanese consumers highly value courteous and personable interactions with customer service representatives. It's not just about problem-solving; the human touch and a respectful attitude play a significant role in their perception of good service.

Japanese consumers highly value courteousness (26%), being personable (28%), and the dependability of customer service representatives as reliable advisors (20%). They exhibit shorter patience for wait times on the phone (less than 5 minutes), but in face-to-face customer service, their tolerance for wait times has increased to an average of 14 minutes, exceeding the previous average of 11 minutes.

4. Low Tolerance for Poor Service

Japanese consumers display a significant intolerance for poor customer service experiences. Japanese consumers tend to be less patient when it comes to waiting on the phone for customer service. They expect quick responses and prefer hold times of less than 5 minutes.

In terms of expected response times after inquiries, 51% expected a reply within one hour, while 82% anticipated a response within 24 hours. When assessing the effect of response satisfaction on usage patterns, 30.7% reported increased service usage with high response quality satisfaction. Conversely, when response quality satisfaction was low, 65.9% indicated reduced or discontinued service usage. (PR times's survey, 2022)

How to Improve Your Ecommerce Customer Service for Japanese Consumers

Next, we'll explore actionable strategies to enhance your ecommerce customer service for Japanese consumers. Whether you're an established brand or just setting foot in the Japanese market, these insights will help you build trust, boost customer satisfaction, and ultimately drive growth.

1. Prioritize Product Quality

Japanese consumers are discerning, and they demand top-notch product quality. To meet this expectation:

  • Quality Assurance: Ensure your products meet or exceed Japanese quality standards. Rigorous quality control is essential.
  • Transparency: Provide detailed product information, including specifications, materials, and manufacturing processes. Transparency builds trust.
  • Customer Reviews: Encourage and showcase customer reviews to highlight the quality of your products.

2. Embrace "Omotenashi" in Customer Service

Omotenashi is Japan's spirit of hospitality. Infuse it into your customer service:

  • Politeness: Train your support team in using polite language (keigo) to convey respect.
  • Personalization: Predict customer needs and offer proactive assistance or discounts to enhance their experience.
  • High-Context Communication: Understand the subtleties of Japanese communication, where context matters.

3. Offer Multichannel Support

Japanese consumers prefer various support channels. Cater to their preferences:

  • Email: Provide timely and detailed email responses.
  • Phone: Offer phone support with well-trained representatives.
  • Social Media: Monitor and engage with customers on social media platforms.

Remark: Providing customer support through phone inquiries continues to offer significant advantages for businesses, making it a worthwhile investment. However, it's also true that in many companies, the customer support department is gradually transitioning to what is referred to as "non-voice" customer support. This method involves embracing various forms of assistance through the web, such as text-based communication like email or chat, unmanned chatbots that don't require direct staff interaction, and comprehensive self-service options like FAQs.

The non-voice customer service is driven by changing communication habits, technological advancements, and evolving customer preferences. Understanding and adapting to these shifts is essential for businesses looking to offer effective support in the modern era.

4. Cultivate "Kizuna" (Relationships)

Building long-term relationships is crucial in Japan:

  • Loyalty Programs: Implement loyalty programs to reward repeat customers.
  • Personal Touch: Address customers by name and remember their preferences.
  • Feedback Loop: Act on customer feedback to show you value their opinions.

5. Swift Responses Are Vital

Japanese consumers expect quick responses:

  • Response Time: Strive for swift responses, especially in email and chat support.
  • Proactive Updates: Keep customers informed about order status and shipping.

6. Leverage Automation

Use technology to streamline processes:

  • Chatbots: Implement AI-powered chatbots for instant responses and issue resolution.
  • FAQs: Create a comprehensive FAQ section to address common inquiries.

7. Monitor Social Media

Japanese consumers increasingly turn to social media for support:

  • Active Presence: Maintain an active presence on social media platforms.
  • Timely Responses: Respond promptly to comments and direct messages.

8. Continuous Improvement

Regularly assess and refine your customer service:

  • Feedback Surveys: Gather customer feedback through surveys to identify areas for improvement.
  • Training: Continuously train and empower your support team.


In conclusion, succeeding in the Japanese ecommerce market demands a steadfast dedication to superior product quality and unparalleled customer service. As we've discovered, providing outstanding customer service in Japan extends beyond offering native Japanese support. To excel in this endeavor, consider the various factors we've discussed when planning your customer service operation.

By embracing the intricacies of Japanese culture and placing customer satisfaction at the forefront of your strategy, your ecommerce brand can flourish in this competitive landscape. This approach will not only earn the loyalty of Japanese consumers but also pave the way for sustained, long-term success in the dynamic Japanese market.

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