How These Ladies Make Singaporeans Smile



toyota concierge

Is it possible to have a job that helps others feel happy? If you’re a Toyota Concierge, yes.

SINGAPORE — Have you heard of a job that involves the singular purpose of making people happy? And comedians don’t count, either.

There’s a group of people who are employed at, of all things, a car showroom whose job it is to bring smiles and cheer to people on a daily basis.

Enter the Toyota Concierge. There are three of them at Toyota’s Leng Kee showroom and one at the Ubi showroom. They’re the first person a Toyota customer will see when they enter the facility, with a Japanese greeting, ‘Irashaimase’, and a bow.

Some might think: “Showroom got somebody to say hello to you at the door or not…got difference meh?”

A similar role is what’s known in hotels as a Guest Relations Officer, but the Concierge’s part is more specific, and subtle, than that.

“Our primary aim is help the customers or visitors to find what they want, and to help them feel at ease, or at home here,” says Yukiko Nobutaka, who is the senior concierge at Borneo Motors.

Yukiko, who’s originally from Osaka, Japan, and who cheekily gives her age as ‘Always 25!’, has been a concierge with Borneo Motors for two years now. She and her three colleagues, Chiho Narita, Sonoko Tamaki and Sakura Akimoto, make up the concierge team.

Language isn’t a barrier for them, given they’re all fluent in English, but the approach behind to job is a very Japanese one: Omotenashi, which can be roughly understood as the Japanese concept of hospitality.

“We are Japanese and Toyota is always concerned with delivering great customer service and hospitality,” says Yukiko. “So our job is really to be the human element for this.”

Like other seemingly nebulous Japanese terms, omotenashi is something that has a multi-faceted meaning beyond its English translation. Some have described it as service with pride, others as being aware of small details. In truth, it’s a little of all that, and more.

As anyone who’s visited Japan will know, it’s a place where great customer service is the norm, rather than the exception, and omotenashi is often all about the little details, such as a carefully wrapped gift or a thank you note.

Here, it’s all about making a customer’s life easier. Yukiko, Chiho, Sonoko and Sakura do everything from door greetings, to sheltering customers with umbrellas when it rains, helping them get oriented or registered for service, even keeping stray young ones occupied.

“Seeing others smile and helping them is what I find most rewarding,”says Yukiko, whose almost constant beaming expression also has a mischievous side.

“Some who are new to the showroom are quite shocked when we bow, because they’re not used to it, especially in Singapore,” she adds with a grin. “And only after we greet them then they realise we’re Japanese!”

To some of us, a job like this might sound weary, and being part of the service industry, can surely be demanding at times. Does Yukiko have any secrets to keeping things on the up?

“I think the secret is always having the customer’s interest at heart, and to be very sincere in wanting to help,” she says. “Seeing them appreciate what we do is fulfilling too, so we always try to approach things with sincerity.”

As we’ve seen in other stories, attention to detail is an important thing to have, not only if you’re buying but also selling cars. And what more could you expect from a place that  employs people who are dedicated solely to making you smile?

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