More Intensely User Oriented

There is a small restaurant in Tokyo's Akasaka called Mameta. Mameta only has a counter, shaped like a key, so there is room for just 20 customers or so at a time. (Actually, there is also a private room at the back for about six people.) It serves a variety of drinks, and the madam makes the food herself. The food comes in perfect time and reasonable volume and goes down splendidly with the drinks. What a good feeling! On the other side of the counter, there are just the madam and two female assistants. Over the counter, they serve food and quickly clear away used plates. They wash the dishes while chatting to customers. No time is wasted at all. What is more, the customers all have smiling faces. It's a wonderful atmosphere. Whenever I go to Mameta, I am always deeply impressed. Since Junichiro Koizumi became prime minister, the Japanese economy has been rolling downhill. I just wonder, maybe what we need at these times is a bit of Mameta's counter approach.

The first to adopt this counter approach was Yodobashi Camera. Today Yodobashi Camera sells all sorts of topical products, but it was when Yodobashi sold only cameras that it introduced the counter approach and brought a lot of satisfaction to customers. In the case of Yodobashi, the counter approach can be seen in the display of products and the assignment of store clerks so that customers can easily see them.

One store clerk sees to many customers and responds quickly to customers who decide to buy. The sales clerk then suggests other related products to the buying customer and finally goes as far as suggesting insurance, too. Although the original product that the customer purchases might cost 50,000yen, he ends up spending, say, 70,000yen. But the customer is happy and satisfied with more than just the points he has accumulated.

The following happened in the age of cameras only. One customer did not understand how to use a camera, so he asked a store clerk. The store clerk then began to attract customers in front of his counter and nearby in a loud voice. "This customer has asked a question," he announced. "I'm going to give him an explanation now, and I thought there might be some of you who are interested, too. So gather round if you are." He then gave an explanation not only to the customer who had asked but to all who had gathered round, much to their satisfaction. I remember being very impressed when a camera-buff friend of mine who had been there at the time praised Yodobashi to the skies and emphasized the feeling of security shopping there.

Yodobashi's assessment of store clerks also apparently is determined not by a standard approach but by evaluating how many customers they attract and sales they achieve. In other words, the salaries of sales clerks who offer high-value-added services and boost their sales naturally increase. Nowadays there are many large discount stores, and they all endeavor to provide high-value-added sales through the counter approach. We should bear in mind the fact that the box approach of many stores, by which store clerks concentrate on single customers, is really inefficient.

The user-oriented approach stressed by President Fujisawa appears to have entered the genes of shop clerks, who seem to be putting the idea into practice with confidence. That is the reason why I think Yodobashi is going to further strengthen its position in the distribution industry.