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Knowing your customer is doubly important if they're Japanese - and doubly difficult


There's no excuse these days for not knowing your customer, thanks to the easily available information on LinkedIn and other networking sites. But as those who work in or with Japan owned companies know, there's not quite the depth of information in English on Japanese companies or individuals on such sites or even in the print media.


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Pernille Rudlin


British Customer Service Has Improved - or is it just the Technology?


I asked two Japanese expatriates who were both on their second stint in the UK what had changed since their last stay in the UK 10 or so years’ ago.  To my surprise, both said that they thought customer service had improved.

My initial response was that this was probably due to the big increase in people from Eastern Europe who are working as waiters, shop assistants and so on, with far more enthusiasm and efficiency than had been normal in the UK in the past.

But on discussing this further, and thinking about my own recent experiences, I realise the improvement they were talking about has more to do with technology than the cultural mindset of service sector employees.  One of the Japanese expatriates said “when you arrange for someone to come to your house to repair something, they arrive when they say they will”.  This used not to be the case – you could take a whole day off work waiting for someone and not even get a phone call explaining the delay.


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Pernille Rudlin



Japan's "No Overtime Day Refugees"


Working 24/7 was seen as the norm during the Japanese ‘economic bubble’ but after the bubble burst in 1990, Japanese employees’ productivity came under the spotlight.  Some companies tried to introduce “waste free” working such as flex time, working from home, early starts and so on while other companies have tried a tougher approach by turning out the lights or fining people or insisting on being notified if overtime is to be done.  Some companies play encouraging music like “There’s Always Tomorrow” (a hit pop song in the 1960s) at the end of the working day.  No Overtime Days have become widespread.


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Pernille Rudlin



Why is there no Japanese word for Risk?


Listening, or rather looking at the presentation of Kazumasa Yoshida, the CEO of Emergency Assistance Japan, I was yet again struck by the fact that there is no direct translation in Japanese for the English word “risk”. Yoshida even had a slide to define “risk”, with “risk” written as “リスク/risku” in katakana, which is the Japanese alphabet used for borrowed, foreign words.  His definition of risk was the potential for a crisis to occur, which if then becomes reality, is a threat, and then when there is harm, is a crisis.

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Pernille Rudlin



Bending Over Backwards to be Inclusive


I was discussing with a client recently the way accepted terminology keeps changing in the UK business world.  Apparently “flexible working” is now being renamed “agile working”.  “Agile” working is meant to have a wider definition than flexible working – the idea being that the focus should be on performance and outcomes, allowing maximum flexibility on the who, what, when and where of executing the work.  “Flexible” usually (as it does in Japan) means flexibility on the hours worked and tends to be used when workplaces are trying to be family friendly towards women.  “Agile” working implies it is a way of working for every employee.

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Pernille Rudlin



Are you ‘Regular’? Probably not, if you were hired outside Japan, or female


My first essay on Japan, a thesis for my Modern History & Economics degree, was on the day labourers in post-war Japan and the so-called dual labour market.  It’s with a sinking heart, nearly 30 years’ on, that I have to acknowledge that the concerns I had then, about the harm done by erecting an impermeable wall in a labour force between ‘permanent’ and ‘temporary’, continue to this day, when thinking about how to improve diversity and inclusion in Japanese companies.


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