All of us are familiar with the derogatory term “two-faced.” This refers to somebody who falsely presents themselves.
A new idiom may be about to enter the lexicon. That idiom is “Lexus Face.” According to The Wall Street Journal “Lexus Face” is “a peaceful Ogasawara-style closed mouth smile said to put customers at ease.”
Ogasawara refers to the Ogasawara Ryu Reihou institute in Japan. This institute is an etiquette school which teaches samurai etiquette which has been handed down since the 1300s.
In Japan, Toyota is sending all Lexus employees for samurai etiquette training under the belief that this will help sell more cars. Besides “Lexus Face” employees are learning how to stand idly with “fingers together and thumbs interlocked” as well as how many arm lengths to stand away from the customer.
The problem with the samurai techniques is that they are mere techniques. A samurai warrior in Japan went through years and years of rigorous training. This training was not only about techniques; it taught a samurai way of being in the world.
Corporations such as Southwest Airlines, L.L. Bean, and Nordstrom that do have legendary customer service do not rely on techniques to ensure their service. They rely on hiring and training employees who have positive regard for their customers. They then give their employees the autonomy that is necessary, so that employees can demonstrate their positive regard.
A “Lexus Face” 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.
Let me suggest a more foolproof method to increase sales—genuine positive regard for the customers. A Course in Miracles, a modern statement of the perennial spiritual wisdom offers this advice:
When you meet anyone, remember it is a holy encounter. As you see him you will see yourself. As you treat him you will treat yourself. As you think of him you will think of yourself. Never forget this, for in him you will find yourself or lose yourself.
Now this is a radical frame of mind to be in. It takes us far beyond the need for a one-size-fits-all smile. This reminds us that we and the customers we serve are really not separate. If we are thinking poorly of them, we are really thinking poorly of ourselves; this is hardly a combination that is going to make a sale.
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.