How to building stronger relationships with Japanese Education agents
Peter Hanami outlines five communication tips to consider when dealing with Japanese education agents to build a stronger relationship. Copyright 2005.All Rights Reserved.
1. Keep in regular contact
Agents often handle a number of education institutions, so it’s important to keep your institution top of mind by being in regular contact. Let your agents know about new things that create convenience for Japanese students, eg Japanese speaking counsellor’s. Use a range of methods to keep in contact, telephone, Email, Fax, letter, newsletter and personal visits as often as you can. Make sure that you use simple plain English for all communication so the message gets through clearly. Don’t send the same newsletter to agents that you send to local students! The language content is too high and not all the news is relevant to their business.
2. Respond to requests quickly (same day if possible)
In my experience working with Japanese agents, I have found that it is important to be prompt. Responding quickly shows a level of organization and professionalism that can’t be conveyed by a glossy brochure. You don’t want to give off the impression that you are slow and tardy.
3. First Visit
If you are visiting an agent for the first time be sure to be on time. Being early is not considered rude, lateness is.
Consider your appearance as it conveys your professionalism. For example, a dark coloured suit, white shirt and a plain tie for men. Japanese business people are traditionally conservative, so save your Winnie the Pooh tie for another occasion.
Take a gift, as it will begin the relationship on a positive note. As an Australian, take an Australian made gift, For Example, Tim Tam biscuits in a tin. The gift will be shared with office staff after you leave and will create a good impression. It is not a bribe but a sign of goodwill.
4. Prepare well for meetings
Make appointments by telephone and confirm them in writing (Email or fax). Send an agenda and estimated time of the meeting, so the agent can prepare and have a clear idea of the purpose of your visit. It will reduce any possible confusion and make the meeting run smoothly. It also shows you mean business. At the meeting stick to just the agenda, if anything else comes up, follow it up in writing after the meeting. Listen carefully to the agent and take notes. If you set a 15-minute time, make sure to end on time and don’t waffle on.
5. Show you understand their culture
As an Australian travelling overseas, you don’t stop thinking Australian, when you visit another country. You see the world with your home country values. This also applies to Japanese business people in Australia. Agents will typically structure and organize their company the same as they would in Japan. So make sure you prepare course information in the same format it is prepared for a school in Japan, with high levels of detailed, useful information. Translating your course information into Japanese is always recommended. This doesn’t mean every brochure, but at least have a one-page summary of each course in Japanese in the style they prefer.
Peter Hanami has lived, worked and recruited students in Japan.