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Lexus Face?

Barry Brownstein, professor of economics and leadership at the University of Baltimore, has served up some criticism of Lexus Japan’s new sales techniques:

A “Lexus Face” [a peaceful Ogasawara-style closed mouth smile said to put customers at ease] put on the face of a Lexus employee will fool nobody if either the employee does not have positive regard for their customer or the employee does not have autonomy to demonstrate their regard by the service they perform.

It is out of a frame of mind that has a genuine desire to be of service that we go beyond the need for technique. A “Lexus Face” may be better than a scowl, but not much better; especially if the “face” is not accompanied by sincere regard and the autonomy to be of genuine service.

Something Brownstein disregarded is his critique is that Lexus has consistently been tops in owner customer satisfaction since releasing their first car in 1989, and it’s doubtful this was achieved by anything less than a “genuine desire to be of service”.

I will agree that appropriating old world samurai techniques in a superficial way would come across as nothing but a farce (not to mention disrespectful), but even in the original WSJ article, it seems the employees are taking it to heart:

Yuka Miyazaki, 24, a Lexus sales consultant in Tokyo, says it took time, but she eventually became so accustomed to the manners she sometimes can’t shake them when she goes out. “I was at a coffee shop with friends the other night,” says Ms. Miyazaki. “And I bowed with both hands crossed at the waitress.”

All in all, there’s nothing in Lexus’ history to suggest that this is anything but a sincere attempt to make Japanese customers enjoy their car purchase.