Japan KAIZEN™ Study Tour - Saishunkan Cosmetics (Part 2)

Japan Study Tour October 2014 – Day 3

 

Saishunkan Cosmetics is a company that prides itself on excellent customer services and top quality products. Their manufacturing site and modern, open-plan call centre and is based adjacent to Mount Aso (the largest active volcano in Japan). Several observations about KAIZEN™ were made during our visit. 

 

Strong customer-centric approach

At Saishunkan nothing is more important than satisfying the needs of their 10,000 customers. The 800 call centre staff ensure that the customer is not waiting as this is bad experience for a customer. Whether they are waiting too long for a call to be answered or for an order to be delivered. This will result in a customer walking away and probably not returning. Their sales targets are strongly connected with customer experience. Large monitors in the centre of the floor keeps the supervisors, team leaders and operators well informed about the number of calls waiting as well as whether they are reaching critical targets.

Customer complaints are dealt with swiftly by senior staff – waiting to resolve a customer complaint is not only a waste for the company but even worse, it can be a huge frustration for the customer. I recall numerous occasions the last 12 months where I had to wait between 30-70 minutes for my calls to be answered by telecommunication companies…

Next day delivery of orders within Japan also adds to their strong customer focus. If there is a significant incident (locally or nationally) that could affect customers or their deliveries (even an earthquake), a drum is sounded in the middle of the call centre to draw everyone’s attention. Staff is then briefed and appropriate ways of dealing with customers are discussed.

Customer service staff members record the requirements of each customers during every call. It is saved in their central data system (almost like medical records when going to a health professional) and accessed by any staff member when the customer rings again.

The R&D team is based in the call centre to gain first-hand knowledge of customer requirements by listening in on telephone calls. Products are designed and improved based on direct feedback from the customer. The base the design of their packaging as well as the product recipes on (literally) the “Voice of the Customer”.

Returned products from the past - a great learning opportunity and reminder of what customer value is all about.Saishunkan do not bombard customers through hard selling. Their motto is “We let the customer call us, we don’t call them.” To get customers to call them, they need top quality products, based on the “Voice of the Customer” A world-class plant and on-site distribution centre assures this. A large display of returned products from the era when they did hard-selling can be seen in the main entrance of the organisation. It is a reminder to all staff that the customer is always the most important in the business. Some of their sales are generated through the internet but 70% stems from customers calling as they are satisfied with the excellent service from the telephone operators.

The customer-centric focus is best described by this quote from their website“…it is essential that we “become” our customers. Not simply think in their shoes, being one with our customers allows us to cherish each of them so as to ensure their total satisfaction”

Engaged and satisfied employees

Saishunkan Cosmetics focuses on having satisfied staff members and a great work environment supports this. This includes a top-notch cafeteria with subsidised buffet-style dining as well as a subsidised, on-site kindergarten. This organisation understands that to keep customers satisfied they first need to have satisfied employees. A pristine natural environment with beautiful vistas over the nearby hills and valleys contributes to the feeling of peace and tranquillity. Lush, well-kept gardens is enough to bring calm to a stressful session.

Short, sharp team meetings are conducted by efficient team leaders and supervisors to minimise the waste of people’s time. This also creates more time to answer incoming calls and thereby creating customer value.

It was interesting to hear that employees see themselves as a part of a big family. This is in line with Richard Branson’s (founder at Virgin Group) approach to starting, growing and managing an organisation. When people want to work for each other, that’s when you can really be sustainable with your improvement efforts. As long as organisations use people to achieve the financial targets of top management, Lean will de-humanised tools used to drive down cost. If interpersonal relationships are fostered by creating and sustaining the dynamic of a “family” atmosphere then KAIZEN™ becomes a high-performing culture.

We have also witnessed call centre staff visiting the dispatch centre to help them better understand the processes required to meet customer needs. This is not regarded as wasteful activities as it is adding value when dealing with the client. The organisation also over-recruit to enable downtime for staff training. Once again, the customer must not be impacted by downtime. Training is a high priority if customers are to be satisfied. This is a good indication of their level of commitment to a superior customer experience.

Commitment to the environment

Not only is Saishunkan showing their respect to customers and employees but also to their environment.

There is a strong utilisation of renewable energy and the countless solar panels bear witness to this. A consciousness that everybody should conserve electricity everywhere in the business every single moment was seen as lights turned off automatically once we left a specific area. People are encouraged to use less electricity.

The building that hosts the call centre has been designed is to conserve energy and heat. The HVAC system uses the natural flow of heat and cold air to accomplish this. This can be called Lean Green. Even the waste food from the cafeteria is used as compost in the on-site gardens (that supplies the cafeteria with vegetables and herbs) Waste water from the operations is recycled and purified to protect the vulnerable natural environment.

Summary

A visit to Saishunkan Cosmetics is an eye-opener to show the level of respect organisations should have for their customers, employees and the environment. They are a great example of the foundational KAIZEN™ principles, values and beliefs.

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