Monday, April 2, 2007

Land of Harmony

Japan is sometimes labeled a "land of harmony" and the country where delicate and refined arts such as calligraphy, ikebana flower arrangement and the tea ceremony came too. People who have visited this country often talk about the friendly welcome and excellent service they received during their visit. Even though they might not speak very good English, the people always try to help and the hospitality is overwhelming.

However... There is another side to the Japanese mentality as well which we often confront at a certain stage in our work. In our work we often times try to set up interviews with people that can be helpful to whatever thing we might be researching. These interviews sometimes have to be arranged through the noble art of cold calling... For those of you who for some reason are unaware of this interesting technique; it consists of calling a certain company, research institution, hospital or similar place in order to talk to someone who first of all have a clue to what you are looking into and secondly actually are willing to take the time and talk to you.

Gone are all pretense of kindness and helpfulness... The Japanese who answer the phone are not the same people who invented calligraphy and ikebana, I can tell you that for sure. Usually the first hurdle you must navigate is the receptionist who can be anything from having a distant pretense of friendliness to a open hostility. Many of them seem to invest considerable time and effort into making things as difficult as possible, classic techniques are the "wrong connect" when they connect you to a completely unrelated department from which you have to try and sneak your way out of. Other classic techniques are the "put on hold and then just hang up" and when you call back trying the apologetic line "excuse me, but the line disconnected for some reason" they don't even flinch and gladly put you on hold for a long while before they tell you that the person don't want to talk to you.

However, rejoice! You actually managed to navigate through the receptionist and reached someone through pure luck or a receptionist that on that particular day couldn't be bothered to torment you (rare occassions though) then the next challenge awaits...

Some people react with the same friendliness as if they had caught redhanded while you are skinning their children with the intent of making an apron or something of the same degree... Here reactions can come from the old classic "hang up while you are talking" to the more non-descript and general scolding for disturbing them when they are so extremely busy (the obvious question; so why the hell then did you take the phone in the first place never seem to get answered).

And we are not even trying to sell people things... Think of this the next time you enjoy the elegance of calligraphy or ikebana, will you?

1 comment:

Foggia said...

My brief stint at a translation so-called "telemarketing" department taught me that speaking in English to a Japanese receptionist gives you an amazing 8O to 90% rate of victory in passing this usually difficult level 1.
Plus then being usually connected to an English speaker somehow related to translations issues, which was the clever part of our technique, if related to this business only.

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