Japan's Smile Scanners A Classic Misuse Of Technology

from the smile-for-the-scanner dept

As pointed out on the Freakonomics Blog:
Japan's Keihin Express Railway Co. has set up "smile scanners" at 15 of its stations, where railway employees have their smiles assessed by software in the hopes of perfecting a customer-friendly look.
This is such a classic misuse of technology by a corporation. The goal of the company is to provide more positive and friendly customer service but its technique of using a "smile scanner" is going to have the opposite effect. Nobody likes to be forced into happiness, and the employees will end up resenting the scanners, their bosses for making them use the scanners and the customers for expecting them to smile.

Instead, a smart company would try to figure out how to make its employees genuinely happy so that they smile because they want to smile. This would create endless positive outcomes for the company, the employees and the customers.

Sometimes technology can look like it provides a quick fix when, in fact, it is just an illusion.

Cross-posted from MyMediaMusings.com
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Filed Under: employees, japan, motivation, smile
Companies: keihin express railway


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  1. identicon
    Petréa Mitchell, 30 Jul 2009 @ 10:04am

    Cultural and economic differences

    Rather than saying you can't understand because this is a foreign culture, let us say that this is a situation where the social and economic forces are somewhat different from what you assume them to be.

    For instance: there is no tipping in Japan. In fact, a tip can be taken to be a serious insult. So you do not have the whole dynamic of an employee trying extra-hard to please a customer with the expectation of increased direct monetary reward.

    However, as AC says, customer service in Japan is excellent. Things which would be considered going the extra mile in the US are normal and expected there.

    Now, Japanese consumers do make decisions about where to spend their money on a company-by-company basis partly based on customer service. But if the actions of customer service are already as improved as they can be, how can a company compete? By affecting the perception that customers have of those actions. And smiling employess will give it that extra edge in customer satisfaction. So this smile-improving program makes sense in that context.

    Plus, all the publicity they've gotten off of this can't hurt, either.


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