What Omotenashi means for your business - Sonder
This ancient Japanese cultural behaviour is being adopted by some of the world’s leading businesses as they attempt to anticipate our every need.
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What Omotenashi means for your business

What Omotenashi means for your business

Omotenashi describes the heart and soul of Japanese service culture and means service from the bottom of the heart, expecting nothing in return. In other words, caring enough to empathise with customer needs and giving them what they want before they ask for it. This anticipation of needs is at the heart of the concept and one that western businesses are starting to embrace with significant success.

Ten years ago people thought Omotenashi was exclusively the domain of fine dining experiences, 5-star hotels and luxury brand boutiques, but the principles of anticipating a customer’s needs now permeate every category in both physical and digital worlds. In Japan you witness Omotenashi even in public transport! As this short video shows, even Japanese train cleaners take immense pride in their contribution to customer experience.

Amazon is one digital business which has embraced Omotenashi to such an extent that they leave others playing catch-up. The recommendation engine which learns from your browsing and purchasing behaviour, anticipates what you might be interested in and presents you with many relevant options. Netflix does this too. Both leading to a powerful customer connection like, “they just get me”. A feeling of comfort and trust which leads to enduring brand loyalty.

There are an increasing number of retailers which are smartly integrating customer data with the physical retail environment to offer personalised experiences either at the checkout or via mobile app alerts. It isn’t that hard and the impact is significant. Here are a few examples from businesses that are embracing Omotenashi:

  • “We know you love our KFC buckets, have the next one on us”
  • “I see that you love wines from Bordeaux region, well, we have just received a new shipment from France this week which you might be interested in”
  • “You might like to try our new Burberry Trench coat available in this store in your size”


Leading businesses like Amazon & Netflix are training us all to expect Omotenashi from every business we engage with. And why shouldn’t we? If we are expected to give up our personal data to businesses, then the least we can expect is that they use it to our advantage and anticipate our every need.

Where could you add a little Omotenashi into your organisation and delight your customers without expecting something in return?