TOYOTATIMES

One and Only Day Series: The Unexpected Bouquet

One and Only Day 2020.09.26

Following a hand-written message from Toyota president Akio Toyoda that said “Thank you. May you have yet another ‘One and Only day., we have been sharing true stories – stories suggested by customers – based on incidents that have happened between customers and dealership staff in this “one and only” series.

In the following story, a family that came in for their regularly scheduled maintenance is surprised when the Lexus Toyonaka dealership (Osaka) goes above and beyond expectations with an “unexpected bouquet.” This special moment was born out of a brief conversation lasting only minutes between the dealership staff and the family.

From an everyday conversation with a regular customer

It was a normal business day at the Lexus Toyonaka dealership (Osaka), with customers coming in to look at new cars, get their vehicles serviced, and other scheduled appointments. One family had just arrived and was dropping off their car for regularly scheduled maintenance, an appointment that was going to take a few hours.

When servicing a vehicle is expected to take a long amount of time, the dealership often lends vehicles to customers while they wait so they can continue to run errands or go to their activities. In this case, because of the length of the service, the family had asked to borrow a car, and a staff member was dispatched to bring the loaner car around. While waiting for the substitute vehicle to come, the family, regulars at this location, were chatting with the staff members that remained behind.

The conversation between the staff and the family was no different from many other times when they had chatted in the past. During this particular short, five-minute conversation it was mentioned by one of the parents that their daughter had passed the entrance exam for the high school she had been hoping to enroll in the following year. The conversation was quickly drawn to a close, however, as the temporary vehicle from the dealership arrived. The family quickly boarded and drove off.

Like family, the dealership staff prepares a fulfilling surprise

One of the staff members that had heard the family share about the daughter’s exam results was Ms. Sakurai. Immediately after the family departed the dealership in the loaned car, she kept thinking about how wonderful it was that the daughter had passed and came up with the idea to give the daughter some kind of present to celebrate.

Sakurai consulted with another staff member working at the dealership at the time, Katagiri, who agreed that it was a good idea. The pair then went to work on getting an appropriate celebratory gift, determining that they should order a bouquet of flowers. They asked a florist near the store to craft the arrangement of flowers, telling them that it was “to celebrate the daughter’s passing of her entrance exam.”

The Osaka-based dealership already had forged a relationship with the family over many years. The daughter that just passed her exam had only been a young elementary school student when they first met. Now, that daughter is almost taller than Sakurai!

Sakurai, who is known by the family and fondly called “one-chan (big sister in Japanese)” by the daughter, was thrilled to hear of her “little sister’s” success. Thinking of the daughter, she had requested the florist to prepare a cute bouquet featuring white and pink flowers, and attached a hand-written message: “Congratulations on passing the test!”

When asked why she had wanted to do all this for the family, she replied in her typical fashion:
“As a mother, I feel that getting some kind of present for a child rather than myself is much more fulfilling and will be a good memory.”

It was no coincidence the idea came from Sakurai and Katagiri, who other staff members at the dealership describe as “always naturally thinking about supporting the lives of their customers each and every day.”

Ms. Sakurai

Helping people in ways that machines can’t

Staff members at the Lexus Toyonaka dealership (Osaka) serve a variety of customers, and continually find opportunities to do things to help them. Whether it is thinking about how to explain new functions or features at a level appropriate to customers with different levels of technical knowledge, or sending out cautionary messages, such as advising customers on ways to stay healthy or safe, the staff members change their interaction based on the situation.

On the various ways they find to serve customers, Sakurai says, “It is important that you don’t stick to the status quo.” Katagiri adds, “This job requires helping the customer as much as possible through cars.” Both claim that having a different mindset, one that keeps customers at the center, leads to changes in what they say or do. They agree that it is this effort made to keep the person as the focus that leads them to a higher chance of experiencing a “one and only moment.”

A “one and only moment” can come from customers too. Katagiri talks of the time that customers heard of and sent a gift to him when he got married. It was a pleasant surprise, and, having been on the receiving end, one that showed just how much the job provides an opportunity to connect and interact with customers at a level that goes beyond cars to deliver happiness to them.

“It is a truly delightful thing to be part of other people’s lives,” said Sakurai. “I want to continue to value the things that we can do because we’re humans, and not robots.”

Mr. Katagiri (the right)

What makes this story so special is how Sakurai and Katagiri see their customer’s happiness as their own happiness. In the “One and Only Day” series, we are sharing true accounts of “one and only” incidents that occur between customers and Toyota’s dealership staff members, members who put themselves in the customer’s shoes, thinking about what action they can do for each and every customer.

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