Creating a lively store environment where anyone can make good use of their capabilities - Sony Store Fukuoka Tenjin in Japan -

Case:09 Creating a lively store environment where anyone can make good use of their capabilities - Sony Store Fukuoka Tenjin in Japan - Sony Store Fukuoka Tenjin opened on April 1, 2016. The store manager, Takada, aspires to create a store what will capture the long-term goodwill of the local community. We asked her about the steps she has taken to create a workplace where her staff can all work in a liberating environment that ensures diversity through links with various cultures and companies.

Aiming to create a lively store that encourages customers to drop in freely

Takada: As there are several major manufacturing sites for image sensors, Kyushu island has deep ties with Sony. It was against this background that Sony opened the Sony Store Fukuoka Tenjin, its first directly-managed store in Kyushu. The street-level store occupies the first and second floors of a building in Tenjin in the center of Fukuoka, so it is easy for the large number of passers-by to come in and look around. Moreover, many people drop in with their kids because there is a children's center in the same building. Since Fukuoka is also easily accessible from China and Korea, many foreign tourists visit the area. A little while ago, staff members who were born overseas played a key role in an event designed to introduce Japanese culture by wearing yukata -- summer kimonos -- when greeting customers, and inviting them to try them for themselves.

We aim to create a lively store that will capture the goodwill of the local community for years to come. Our goals are to build strong, close relationships with the local community and encourage anyone, from children to adults, to enter the store without hesitation. Even if they do not buy anything, we hope they will enjoy dropping in to the store, especially if they go away pleased with their visit or having learned something interesting -- anything that satisfies their curiosity or provides them with a compelling experience. To create a warm, homey atmosphere, we decided to use a wooden décor for the store's interior.

Excellent customer service stems from an environment that allows
freedom of opinion and a "flat" organization

Takada: We concentrated on hospitality and a spirit of cooperation to create a lively store. We have gathered together an international group of people aged in their 20s through their 50s. Our first priority was to create an environment and mechanisms that would encourage a group of people with different backgrounds and ways of thinking to freely express a diverse range of views. This is something I really wanted to do when we started setting up this store, largely because of the experience I gained from contacts with people from various countries during postings to France and China to market Sony products, as well as some 15 years working in management.

I initiate communications to create a mood where everyone can speak spontaneously and enable members to voice their thoughts freely.
It is also important to express any matters that are common to all staffers in language that is as easy as possible for all to understand. When I used the word "HIKIGANE"(≒trigger) during a meeting some time ago, one of our staff from overseas pointed out that it was difficult to understand. Since then, we have nurtured a common awareness throughout the store that everyone should use language that is easy to comprehend.
Groups of 3-4 staff work together not only to deal with customers who come to the store but also to work on activities that will encourage more customers to visit. At a recent event to commemorate the opening of a new commercial facility in Fukuoka, we set up an exhibit to provide people with the opportunity to enjoy waterproof speakers for themselves.

Tourists from overseas were totally delighted to find staff members who could speak their language. Japanese customers are also full of praise for overseas staffers who make every effort to provide guidance in Japanese. Since our staff practice expressions such as "Welcome" and "Please wait a minute" together in Japanese, English and Chinese each morning, we find that this has a favorable impact on our Japanese staff, who learn the foreign equivalents quickly. We are all delighted when customers from overseas tell us that they will come back.

Creating a place where various people can link up
while experiencing the diverse local culture

Top: Local people star in the poster
Bottom: The Hakata cloth development
process, and camera cases produced
through collaboration

Takada: One of the features of the Sony Fukuoka Tenjin Store is our proactive efforts to link up with local companies and people in order to create closer regional ties. An example of this is the use of traditional Hakata cloth for PC cases, accessory pouches and camera body covers that went on sale when the store first opened. This was the idea of a local staff member from Fukuoka who pushed ahead with plans in cooperation with Nishimuraorimono Corporation, which makes Hakata cloth, and the local Ulysses camera accessories brand. Looking ahead, we are very keen to continue tying up with various companies while adopting aspects of local culture.

When we opened the store, we adopted various initiatives to strengthen our relationships with the local people by creating posters that featured some of them as the main characters. We asked people from various age groups and occupations to appear and talk about their favorite Sony products.

On one occasion, when children from local nursery schools came to the children's center on the upper floors of our building, we were asked to provide extra space because there was not enough room upstairs. We happily obliged by making our theater room available and showing the children some films. I guess the fact that we often see children here is one of the features of Sony Fukuoka Tenjin Store.

We are very happy that since the store opened, it continues to attract a wide range of visitors, ranging from parents with children to seniors, as well as people who are interested in consumer electronics.

Promoting dynamic people helps create an excellent store

Takada: Our goal is not just to function effectively as a store, but also to provide customers with enjoyable experiences. For this reason, Sony Fukuoka Tenjin Store will continue to encourage its diversified staff to work together to generate various ideas aimed at stimulating the curiosity of its customers.

Since Sony employs such a wide variety of people, I do not generally feel a special need to promote diversity. Nevertheless, I think we should attach great importance to posting energetic people to responsible positions where they can make the most of their strengths, irrespective of their nationality, gender or background. Since skills and knowledge can be acquired at any time, the motivation and thinking of individuals are more important than anything else. In this regard, a company's attitude can lead to the creation of a great workplace atmosphere and, in particular, make it possible to provide customers with enjoyable experiences.

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