Tag Archives: Lexus

Two Japanese Words


Any time I talk about customer service, I have to break out two of my favorite Japanese words, commonly used in the world of Lexus: kaizen and omotenashi. Kaizen means continuous improvement, an ongoing passion for personal and professional development. It goes without saying that any conversation about customer service will require a constant pursuit of offering better service today than we did yesterday. We must read, learn, try new things. Omotenashi is a little trickier to explain, as I don’t know that there is a true English equivalent.

Omotenashi loosely translated means hospitality, but it really is a stronger version of it. Imagine that your favorite celebrity is going to visit your home: think about how you would put out your best dishes, purchase fresh flowers, and prepare their favorite foods. This level of service is anticipatory, offering amenities which the guest doesn’t even know they want or need. It is a hospitality level designed to delight the guest, help them feel at ease, and create lasting memories. For a company aspiring to the utmost level of the customer experience, one can easily sense that omotenashi is the ideal goal.

In thinking of customer service in this way, I am reminded of the motto held by the Ritz Carlton: We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen. I love this phrase, because it conveys a sense of manners and graciousness. It implies that it is an honor to serve others (which it truly is). When I hear about a situation involving a heated debate with a customer or coworker, I think of this motto. Keeping a poised demeanor is absolutely essential, and the more that we maintain our decorum, the calmer the other person will pick up on our dignified presentation and respond in-kind.

In addition to these two concepts, I am unable to discuss customer service without mentioning employee engagement. I believe with my full heart that there can be no ongoing culture of exemplary guest service without a conscious commitment to the internal customer, the associate. It is not realistic to expect team members to be superstars of omotenashi and kaizen without a direct supervisor who embraces those same values. Of the 8-10 responsibilities I have at the dealership, the one which is my absolute priority is caring for the 5 employees for whom I am responsible. I cannot do anything else unless I know that they are ok, and that they have everything they need for the day. I work extra hours to accommodate special schedule requests, ask them about life events, keep communication lines open about their duties and tell them I appreciate them. As we have built our relationship over the years, they have rewarded me with a loyalty that impresses me daily. These amazing individuals provide anticipatory service to the Jim Hudson Lexus customers, seeing things that need to be done for them and jumping in without having to be asked. Ours is a relationship of the utmost level of mutual respect; we watch out for one another and safeguard a positive work experience. When guests comment on the friendliness and service extended by my department, I feel that it is a direct reflection on how they feel about their job.

It has been said that how one feels about their job is 90% related to how one feels about their supervisor. This is why I take my leadership responsibilities so seriously. Considering how much time we spend at work, I have the power to impact someone’s daily life in a significant way. I am sure that John Mackey of the Whole Foods organization concurs: “If you are lucky enough to be someone’s employer, then you have a moral obligation to make sure people do look forward to coming to work in the morning.”

The best way to fulfill this obligation is to lead by example. If I instruct my team to be punctual, well-groomed, polite, attentive, hard-working…then I myself must demonstrate those attributes in excess of the level I expect from them. If I am encouraging kaizen and ongoing learning, then I must pursue it, as well. My team and I help one another to be better employees, and by extension, better human beings. As we sustain an elevated level of courtesy and graciousness in our environment, that same optimistic attitude begins to ooze into our personal lives, with positive results. We become a blessing to one another.

Being a blessing to someone is at the core of everything I choose to do in my life. It has become my mission statement, informing every interaction at home, work or in the community. The cool thing about having a personal mission statement is that it simplifies decisions. Anytime I am overwhelmed or in doubt, I ask myself how I can be a blessing to the other person, and the answers and actions flow from that. Followers of my blog will recall how I came to discover this mission statement a couple of years ago, but perhaps do not realize how transformative it has become. Be a Blessing Blog By asking myself how to be a blessing to others, it brings personal significance to the customer service I extend. I want to bring the most beautiful aspects of omotenashi to the guest in front of me in each moment, and I am rewarded with a feeling of actually being in love with my job. I go home each night knowing that the work I am doing is my life’s purpose, and it is more fulfilling than any career I could have imagined for myself 30 years ago when I helped my first customer in my first job almost 40 years ago.

While there are still moments of incredible stress and frustration in my work life, I cannot imagine doing anything else, for any other company, as long as I am physically able to work. Customer service positions have to be the most challenging and difficult of any jobs today, but by embracing two small Japanese words and coming up with a mission statement that resonates for you, I can testify that even a job you have had for many years can become new, fresh, and amazing.


The Sixth Lexus

It’s hard to believe I’m already getting the first maintenance performed on my 2013 ES350; it’s even harder to believe that this is my sixth Lexus. My first one, a red IS300, will always be a sentimental favorite. It had unique styling for Lexus, created for the performance-based driver, with racing cues on the interior.  There were so few of these cars on the road; I took pride in knowing that mine was one of only 3 red ones in the area.


I was so enamored with this car that I broke up with my then-boyfriend because he wanted to drive it, and I didn’t want to share. (There may have been some other reasons to break up, but they seem inconsequential and fuzzy today.) The only thing I did not like about this classic Lexus sedan was the dangerously hot metal gear shifter; it required an oven mitt in order to put the car into gear during the scorching Georgia summers. The engineers who thought it looked cool and sporty must have lived in Minnesota or something.


After the red IS, I enjoyed a series of great Lexus vehicles, including a red IS350, a silver IS250, a blue ES350 and a silver ES350. My current gold ES350 (or “Satin Cashmere”, as they say in Lexus-speak) is the new favorite, because the changes that Lexus made to the 2013 generation ES have taken it to the same stratospheric level that they reached with the RX350 in 2010. You drive a 2010 RX compared to a 2009 RX, and you will feel like you are in a vehicle that costs $10,000 more. Same with the 2013 v. the 2012 ES. The fit, finish, amenities, styling and ride of these upgraded models amazes me.  Here is a picture taken right before I bought my ES, in late December.


I told Kevin that I had to buy this car because as the Jim Hudson Lexus PR girl, I needed to represent the latest and greatest model, which is true. I consider it my duty to drive vehicles which inspire others to notice the product, much like when I worked for Clinique and they asked us to wear the new lipstick colors. Kevin gave me his blessing, as he is always kind to do, and by Christmas I was tooling around in the nicest car ever to grace my driveway.

In addition to the styling and the smooth driving performance, I fell in love with this car for the same reason I fall in love with most people: the little things. I will share a few of the countless small things I enjoy in this Lexus, which I must mention cost very close to the same price as my last 2 ES350’s.

1. Back-up camera: while not new to the ES, it is a first for me and I LOVE it. I am a notoriously bad parker, and the red lines show me when I’m heading in the right direction.

2. The appearance of the dash. The stiched trim and the contrast of beautiful materials is strikingly elegant.


3. The control knob which allows me to navigate vehicle functions-I use it to change settings, radio stations and more- it functions much like a mouse does on a computer, which is what cars essentially are these days.


4. The display feature which tells me everything from how many miles I have left on a tank of gas, to how much pressure is in each tire. There is a world of vehicular information at my fingertips, and sometimes I scroll through all of the options, just because I can.


5. Satellite radio. Again, not new for the ES or even for me, but the way the song info is displayed is something I really like. I am a consistent channel-changer, always seeking the next great song or joke, so the functionality of the audio screen with the control knob is a good fit for me. (Yes, I actually took a picture of the screen during a Barry Manilow song.) For the record, my most favorite XM channels are 7, 8, 17 and 32.


While I could continue to go on about favorite features of my Lexus, I think it is clear that although I now have 5,000 miles on my car, I truly am still in love. I will close with the feature that ultimately sold me on the car, and it will seem silly, but I think it adds the classiest touch of all. It is the ultimate in elegance, and makes the interior look entirely fresh and classic: the clock. This is the real reason I had to buy my sixth Lexus. (Don’t tell Kevin.)


With so much to love-big and small- I have to say I made a good decision with the 2013 ES. I think I will keep this Lexus for awhile.