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Yoshitaka Nojiri, president of TRUNK Co., Ltd., aims to create a new market for “bou-tique hotels” in Japan. Here in “TRUNKER’S TALK,” Nojiri will delve into various top-ics from the hotel industry to his own work and lifestyle to the future of Tokyo and Japan.
The topic of this issue is “What is lacking in the hotel industry today.” Nojiri, who knows ins and outs of boutique hotels around the world, will explain the challenges the Japanese hotel industry faces today and describe what an ideal hotel will be like in the future.
When I think about the hotel industry in Japan, the word that puzzles me most is omotenashi (hospitality). The word is often used as a symbol of excellence of this coun-try, but from a global perspective, I’m afraid there is a misconception about it. Japan’s personal service industries, including the hotel industry, have a philosophy or guiding principles of thoroughly carrying out what is written in a manual. When it comes to doing as told, they can achieve perfection, and people from overseas often marvel at this.
People in practically any industry of Japan are expected to properly carry out whatever they are asked to do by the company, and whoever meet these expectations are evaluated highly there. In a sense, they are really excellent workers. However, when a customer makes a specific request, they often have difficulty responding to it. They feel confused when customers ask them to do a non-standardized task. This gap is often surprising from the viewpoint of people overseas.
You can easily find a good example of this at a hotel or inn. In my recent stay at a hot spring inn with some of my friends, we were enjoying in-room dining, talking about how we were looking forward to the open-air bath under the blue sky the following morning. Then the room waitress came and asked when we wanted breakfast, at 7, 7:30 or 8 A.M. Since it was a precious vacation and we wanted to sleep in, we asked if it was all right to let them know what time we would eat breakfast when we got up the following morning. But the waitress wanted us to decide right then.
She also discussed our request with the kitchen staff, but the response was the same, so we had no choice but to skip breakfast. We just didn’t want to go to bed worrying about tomorrow’s wake-up time and breakfast. In this way, Japanese hospitality is just about doing everything by the book, and they cannot satisfy an easy request if that is not specified in the manual. They may have lost sight of the original purpose of providing service and hospitality.
In other words, from a global standpoint, the hospitality level in Japan is not as high as we think. But what is incredible is perseverance—to be able to keep a smile and deal with anyone, and to apologize immediately for anything to the extent that there is a manual on how to apologize…
Of course, it is great to be able to serve according to the manual, but employees should also able to provide outstanding customer service that satisfies customers’ expectation in a situation not foreseen in the manual, just like excellent company managers do. This is the only way to improve their hospitality in the real sense.
So, what should we do to achieve this? The hotel industry is generally equipped with a number of manuals, but at TRUNK(HOTEL), we have been trying to keep rules as few as possible. We broadly decide which way to go, and leave the rest to the staff members so that they can pursue what they want to do. They can also establish com-pany systems and procedures as they like.
Traditional Japanese companies have systems and manuals in place right from the out-set, and most Japanese people have only focused on how to optimize and maximize them. However, at TRUNK(HOTEL), we decided from the start to eliminate manuals and min-imize rules, and by doing so, our staff members have learned how to think and act on their own in every situation. This is why they are able to find a right answer on their own about the way they work, as well as the way they provide customer service.
As they make more decisions on their own, their mind will get sharpened, and the more experience they have, the better they can perform when dealing with customers and is-sues. What they want to do directly leads to the customer satisfaction. Therefore, our members believe that their personal growth leads to high-quality performance, and they even design their own growth support system.
I tell the staff that it would be nice to be in a positive fifty-fifty relationship with our customers. For example, if a customer has an unreasonable request or demand something ridiculous like harassment, they should have the courage to say no. Customers are im-portant, but I don’t believe it’s necessary to have to accept everything they demand.
Our visitors often say that the staff working at TRUNK(HOTEL) look like they are having fun. This should be because each individual is able to work freely, without being bound by rules. It has been a year-and-a-half since we opened the hotel, and in retrospect, eliminating rules have had more positives than negatives, and we experienced a lot of things that we can be proud of. This is why I have removed the manual, decided to trust our employees and let them work the way they want. It would be great if more Japanese companies adopted this management style. I believe this is necessary for Japan as it aims to become a tourism-oriented country, and I would be happy if our efforts at TRUNK(HOTEL) became a success story of it.
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TRUNK is always with Tokyo.
TRUNK President Yoshitaka Nojiri’s project to discuss the strategy, ideas, and originality of TRUNK(HOTEL). In this issue, he will explain where TRUNK-ness lies and reveals why they are attached to the city of Tokyo.
Creativity is the one and only identity.
TRUNK President Yoshitaka Nojiri talks about the quintessence of the "hotel," which is full of various lines of business. This time we will discuss the consideration and practice of one of the most important aspects of TRUNK which it emphasizes over everything―creativity.
Originality is the key to making future hotels
When we looking at the world from a hotel or, broader yet, from a tourism standpoint, how the world goes on around us becomes clearly visible. TRUNK President Yoshitaka Nojiri has a deep insight into the hotel business based on the market trend. How was the originality of TRUNK(HOTEL) born?
A hotel that is closed during the New Year’s holidays? TRUNK creates a new way of working
At TRUNK(HOTEL), we do not have work manuals, and our staff members themselves decide how to work based on our four core values: originality, innovation, contribution, and sincerity. Our way of working is only made possible because we are a group where each individual has a sense of ownership. General Manager Hisao Koga, Wedding Division Manager Sachiko Hayafune, and Accommodations Division Manager Daichi Ogihara will discuss these efforts and achievements.
A discussion by Asia’s leading hoteliers 【Part 2】What is important when creating a unique hotel.
Design Hotels, an international hotel community consisting of only high-quality, sophisticated, independent hotels in 50 countries around the world.
Along with Vice President of Design Hotels Asia-Pacific Division, Mr. Jinou Park serving as facilitator, and Singapore’s highly talented hotelier, Mr. Lou Lik Peng, “A discussion by Asia’s leading hoteliers.” In Part 2, they will underscore important aspects of creating a unique hotel that is strongly rooted in its surrounding area.
A discussion by Asia’s leading hoteliers 【Part 1】What is the driving passion behind their hotel development?
Design Hotels is an international hotel community consisting of only high-quality, sophisticated, independent hotels in 50 countries around the world. Design Hotels sets high eligibility requirements for participation in terms of design and stories, and it currently has three partners in Japan. Amongst them, the only hotel in Tokyo is TRUNK(HOTEL).
When Nojiri visited Singapore, he successfully had a talk with Mr. Lou Lik Peng, Singapore’s highly talented hotelier who was involved in creating The Old Clare Hotel in Sydney and Town Hall Hotel & Apartments in London, both of which are also Design Hotels members. In Part 1 of this conversation, Mr. Jinou Park, Vice President of the Asia-Pacific Division of Design Hotels, also joined as facilitator as they talked about their driving passion behind their hotel development.