TOKYO -- Seven-Eleven Japan will offer interpreters to shoppers at its nearly 19,000 locations nationwide as the convenience store giant aims to serve foreign tourists better.
The service initially will be available in Chinese and English, with Korean and Spanish under consideration.
International visitors are flocking to Seven-Eleven outlets, which are open around the clock unlike department stores or volume retailers. Besides buying goods, customers increasingly are using all-in-one copy machines at the stores that also issue event tickets and print photos. Foreign guests often ask clerks for help, but providing assistance has been a challenge in some cases.
Starting in September, shoppers and retail associates looking for information or answers will be connected to a support center in Yokohama run by call center operator transcosmos. They will speak with staff trained by Seven-Eleven, and their conversations will be translated by interpreters in Sapporo in three-way calls.
The new service, which will be offered from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., is an upgrade from the support Seven-Eleven now provides to customers and shop clerks through transcosmos. The service may be offered for longer hours depending on demand.
The member of Seven & i Holdings retail group offers tax-free shopping at 1,200 locations, not only in tourist destinations such as Tokyo's Asakusa district and the city of Kyoto but also at places such as airports and ferry terminals.
The convenience store chain is taking on foreign staff as well, who now account for 20,000 of the company's 380,000-member workforce in Japan. A growing number of stores in central Tokyo are run by non-Japanese personnel, and the chain wants to enhance support for them.