Mickey Mikitani, Chairman and CEO, Rakuten, Inc.

What does it take to win over customers during the busiest shopping season of the year?

If you answered low prices, fast shipping or popular products, you’re only partly right. These elements are important to shoppers, of course, but the measure that customers will judge you by and remember you for is service. Customers judge us, every day, on the service we provide. And their standard is nothing short of perfection.

At Rakuten, two well-known Japanese concepts are core to the execution of our business. One is “kaizen,” the pursuit of constant improvement. The other is “omotenashi,” the commitment to understanding and anticipating your customer’s every need. To these, I’d like to add a new customer-driven concept inspired by the exacting Japanese consumer – and a new take on the key performance indicator (KPI.) We can call it the “Key Perfection Indicator.” This is to remind us of what our customer expects – every day.

Everybody working diligently at their jobs thinks they are doing their best. But when the customer has so many choices – in internet services, in mobile services, in e-commerce and elsewhere – simply having that mindset does not meet the standard. You have to be chosen by the customer every day, so your effort and quality of delivery must continuously improve. Even if you get to 99.5% effort and you think you did your best, that may not be sufficient. Ultimately, it’s the customer who sets the standard for perfection. To win the holidays, you need to adjust your perspective to match this standard.

What does all this mean?

1. Commit to delivering that last boost of effort, however small

That last 5% effort in service will dramatically improve customer perception of your business. There is a saying, “Retail is detail.” In Japan we often say, “God is in the details.” So, if you are providing a service, this very last effort is incredibly important. It does not matter whether it is a Saturday or Sunday or any non-business day. At Rakuten, we provide 24-hour, 365-day services. As a global team, we have to deliver an experience that meets the customer’s standards for perfection at all times. Otherwise, they will leave for other services and never come back.

2. Make connections for your customer

What partnerships can you create that will deliver an even better experience for your customer? This season, for example, we connected our U.S. cashback service, Ebates, with rideshare pioneers Lyft, providing customers with additional reasons to visit with us.

3. Innovate constantly

Even if you have delivered innovation all year, the customer may be looking for more. Constantly ask yourself the question, “What else can I do to improve the customer experience? What new ideas can I deliver?” Innovation in operations can be one of your most powerful tools.

 

Keeping the Key Perfection Indicator in mind is important for everyone in business, from engineering and design to sales and marketing. It is not something we should do, it is what we must do. It is about survival, and it is about winning the heart of customer.

Customers will always find the imperfections in your system, the weak link in your process. You can never be satisfied with “good enough.” This holiday season, set your standard to perfection. Your customer already has.