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Communication with consumers [PR3]

We continue to use close, in-depth communication with consumers to improve our products and services, while providing essential lifestyle information to consumers of all ages.

2015 activities

Besides listening to consumers’ ideas and wishes regarding our products, we also endeavor to provide useful information that takes account of the changes taking place in society.
We have created videos which show how to use Kao products safely and comfortably. We also publish details of the ingredients of Kao products, information which may be needed when shipping these products outside Japan. In addition, we have launched a new program for responding to queries raised on social networking service (SNS) sites.

Policies/structures

Kao’s Consumer Communication Center serves as our contact point with consumers, not only responding helpfully to specific comments and requests submitted by consumers in an “accurate, quick, and courteous” manner, but gaining a well-developed understanding of actual usage situations through our customer’s concerns and lifestyle habits.
Kao developed the Kao ECHO System database in 1978. This system, which has been upgraded five times in the intervening years, enables effective communication between Kao and its consumers and provides a foundation for the entire company to share and utilize consumer feedback.
The database stores a wide range of information on all Kao products, ranging from basic product information to improvement histories and daily lifestyle information. By accessing this information, staff at the Consumer Communication Center can respond to consumer inquiries in a prompt and appropriate manner. In addition, while taking suitable measures to protect personal information, the system compiles a list of all consumer inquiries received each day and makes this data available to all relevant divisions the following morning.
Based on this data, individual divisions analyze the trends in inquiries and the incidence (the number of inquiries as a percentage of the number of pieces shipped) by product, and use the results in product development, marketing and quality improvement activities.

Structure to reflect consumer feedback in products
Structure to reflect consumer feedback in products

In 2015, Kao Corporation, Nivea-Kao Co., Ltd., and Kanebo Cosmetics Inc. together handled about 213,000 consumer inquiries received via phone and e-mail (equivalent to 96% of the previous year’s total); overall, the number of inquiries fell compared to the previous year. However, there has been an increase in inquiries from the elderly regarding product differences and usage, reflecting Japan’s aging society, and also an increase in inquiries from men. People aged 60 or over now account for around 40% of all inquiries received. At the same time, Kao has responded to the changes in the communication methods used by young people by starting to use social networking services (SNS) to disseminate information. The increase in consumer spending by foreign tourists visiting Japan in the last few years has also resulted in an increase in inquiries regarding delivery of Kao products.

Goals

Kao aims to reflect consumer opinions and inquiries when improving and developing its products, and seeks to improve services by listening to consumers while fine-tuning its outgoing communications.
Kao also endeavors to provide a wide range of daily life information that is useful for everyone from children to the elderly. Kao promotes diverse communication by organizing various seminars and actively participating in events organized by government agencies. Since FY 2010, Kao has been providing in-school education support programs, including environmental lessons, hand washing lessons and house cleaning lessons that are related to the school curriculum. Kao aims to expand such opportunities, enabling us to communicate directly with more consumers.

Japan

Providing information on the Kao website

Kao utilizes its website to respond to consumer inquiries, providing detailed and timely information.
To help consumers select the products that best suit their needs, Kao makes available the information that can be found on product labels (including ingredients, instructions for use, warnings etc.) in the Kao online product catalog.
As our top priority is consumer safety and comfort, the website also provides essential information, such as information regarding the importance of skin sensitization test (human patch test) when using hair color, emergency treatment methods for when a product is accidentally ingested or consumed, etc., in the Products Q&A section of the website.

Inquiries

The Customer Inquiry page offers numerous contact points according to the type of inquiry. Upon receiving several similar inquiries, we then publish the response as a specific topic, adding it to the Q&A site banner and other locations for quick resolution of customer concerns.
Starting from October 2015, Kao has introduced a new Sign Language Communication Window for hearing-impaired customers who have difficulty making inquiries over the phone, and is now able to handle inquiries in sign language in addition to the existing telephone, e-mail, post and fax inquiry channels.

Kao’s newly-established Sign Language Communication Window

Responding to a Consumer Affairs Agency press release issued in September, 2015, entitled “Make Sure Senior Citizens Do Not Eat or Drink Hazardous Substances by Mistake!,” which noted a case in which a senior citizen drank chlorine kitchen bleach fluid by mistake, starting from December the “Notifications” section of the Kao website has presented some important points to note regarding the proper handling of tableware and kitchen utensils when using kitchen bleach fluid.

Important notice regarding the handling of tableware and kitchen utensils when using kitchen bleach fluid

Products Q&A

This is a compilation of the many inquiries received from our customers, in Question and Answer format. Links to the product catalog provide a rich database of additional detailed information with a display of actual products for easy searching.
In 2015, Kao launched a new “Products Q&A” website, which utilizes videos, with the aim of showing people, in an easy-to-understand way, how to use Kao products safely and easily.
To help prevent flashing accidents caused by aerosol products, the site includes videos showing the correct way to release all the gas from aerosols before disposing of them, and what to do if the aerosol nozzle gets clogged up. Some consumers have damaged their skin while trying to remove hair coloring agent that had dripped onto the skin by mistake; the website uses live-action video to show the correct process for removing the skin discoloration. To ensure that the information presented on the site can also be used by the hearing impaired, all of the video clips have subtitles.
Also in 2015, Kao has responded to the increase in the number of people who need to know the product ingredients in order to be able to send Kao products to relatives or friends living outside Japan by making this information available on the website.

Products Q&A main page

Product Q&A video example:
how to release gas from
Kao Cape hair spray before disposal

Products Q&A video example

Product Q&A video example:
how to remove Blauné
hair manicure from skin

Product catalog

Product catalog is Kao’s consumer product catalog site. It includes about 1,300 items, with the information that is displayed on product packaging labels, such as product components, usage, etc.
The catalog is also linked to the product Q&A section and other sites, with users able to view relevant product Q&As from each of the product pages. It includes information on precautions that should be taken when using hair color products, aerosol products and chlorinated products, and an “Emergency Treatment SOS,” a link consolidating various treatments for urgent situations including cases of unintentional product ingestion, helping to ensure that consumers can use their Kao products safely.
Besides introducing new products, Kao also provides information on product enhancements, listing specific improvements in performance, fragrance, containers, design and other areas in a format that is as easy to understand as possible. In addition, the catalog provides notification of product discontinuations two months in advance, as we work to keep regular users informed about the products they enjoy.
In 2015, following the publication in October of a report by the Consumer Safety Investigation Committee investigating the reasons for incidents involving damage to skin caused by hair dyeing, Kao’s Consumer Communication Center received a large number of inquiries. In response, Kao has announced important notices with regard to the ingredients and instructions for use of all Kao hair color products, as well as important notes for their use. Kao has also endeavored to raise awareness of the relevant issues by providing links to Q&A section on the Kao website to inform consumers about the importance of doing a skin sensitization test (human patch test) before using hair coloring products. The instructions for use have been made available for download, so that consumers can examine detailed information about the products before purchasing.

Information on discontinued products

We continue to receive inquiries concerning products from loyal customers long after the product has been discontinued.
Since 2002, we have consolidated information concerning main discontinued products in a single site—the product catalog for discontinued products. In 2015, new information was added to this site regarding Humming Concentrated Fabric Softener, Pipe Haiter Powder, and Blauné Essence Plus Color.

Examples of discontinued products listed on the site

Introduction of wide-ranging support for consumers via SNS

The increased diffusion and growth of digital media has led to an increase in the number of people who use the Internet and social media to make inquiries when they have a query about a particular product. Up until recently, Kao has mainly relied on an approach that involves waiting until consumers get in touch via telephone or e-mail, but there are also a lot of posts on social networking service (SNS) sites about consumers’ problems that Kao can help to solve. With the goal of providing even more wide-ranging lifestyle support for consumers, in July 2015 Kao began providing responses to consumers’ queries submitted via SNS; as of December 2015, Kao had replied to a total of about 600 inquiries using SNS.
On Yahoo! Chiebukuro (Japan’s largest knowledge sharing community service, where many Kao product users post queries), Kao has set up Kao Official Support, providing support for home products (mainly washing and cleaning products), and also for beauty products (including skin care, hair care and cosmetics products). Kao’s concrete suggestions in response to queries about how to wash the delicate clothing, etc., inspired consumers to submit comments such as “Being able to get professional advice is a great reassurance,” and “I am very glad that Kao now has a presence on Yahoo! Chiebukuro.” One of the key features of social media is that responses can be read not only by the person who made the original query, but also by other people with a similar problem; providing information via SNS thus significantly extends the benefits.

Kao Official Support welcome page (Japanese)

Response message
*This support message is shown to give an idea as to how this form of communication works in practice.

Japan

Interactive events

Among its relationships with various stakeholders, Kao recognizes the vital importance of activities directly involving communication with the consumer to deepen mutual understanding. We proactively visit key consumer groups, consumer affairs administration offices, and local authorities handling consumer affairs to facilitate the exchange of information.
We invite members of consumer groups to visit our plants and museums, encouraging the sharing of ideas. We also participate in events held for various consumer groups in response to requests from NPOs and governmental agencies.
In 2015, Kao continued to participate in “Children’s Day for Visiting Kasumigaseki” and the “Sumida Consumer Lifestyles Exhibition.” Also in 2015, Kao participated for the first time in the healthy lifestyles event held in Minami-ku, Yokohama. Kao was able to introduce Kao products (such as Relief adult diapers) to participants. The response to Kao’s involvement in these grassroots community event was very positive, with many people stopping by the Kao booths.
Kao continues to contribute to society through such activities.

The healthy lifestyles event held in Minami-ku, Yokohama

Global

Globalization of consumer communication activities

Kao is applying consumer communication know-how honed in Japan to activities carried out by Kao Group companies outside Japan as well. To ensure that consumer communication in all countries is conducted appropriately and quickly, and consumer communication processes and values are shared throughout the entire Kao Group, Kao is taking steps to facilitate the monitoring of the state of Kao operations in each country, and utilizing the exchange of information through day-to-day e-mails and telephone calls, as well as the holding of regular web conferences, etc. In addition, every year a meeting is held at which consumer communication representatives from every company in the Group come together to share information horizontally across countries as to how consumer communication is being implemented in each country and develop an enhanced understanding of the Kao Group’s consumer communication strategy, which in turn contributes to an enhancement of the overall quality of consumer communication provision and helps to provide forward momentum for Kao’s global activities.
In order to realize the visualization of consumer attitudes and the sharing of this information across countries, in 2009 we developed the Global ECHO System, a framework for the sharing and effective utilization of the views expressed by consumers in different countries, which operates in a similar manner to the Kao ECHO System that had already been adopted in Japan. Through this System, for the vast majority of Kao Group member companies, the content of consumer consultations can be viewed by all related divisions, supporting coordinated measures to meet consumers’ needs in an appropriate manner, and facilitating the precise and prompt provision of support to consumers through coordinated action across countries, and creating new opportunities for Yoki-Monozukuri activities.

Kao is designated an Official Partner of the Japan Obesity Prevention Association

Kao has for many years now been undertaking research on visceral fat and contributes to awareness raising in relation to obesity and metabolic syndrome by carrying out research to develop the Healthya product series, which are designated Foods for Specified Health Uses, as well as various types of information dissemination activities. In recognition of these efforts, in September 2015 Kao was designated an Official Partner of the Japan Obesity Prevention Association, making Kao the Association’s first and currently only Official Partner.
Taking “Let’s reduce our visceral fat to stay healthy!” as its catchphrase, the Japan Obesity Prevention Association was established in January 2015 with the aim of promoting better understanding of obesity and metabolic syndrome, and of spreading awareness of ways to prevent and combat obesity and metabolic syndrome within society as a whole.
Kao will be providing support for the Association’s activities by holding visceral fat seminars and visceral fat measurement sessions throughout Japan, and by providing solutions to help prevent and mitigate obesity and metabolic syndrome. In October 2015, with support from the Association, Kao held a visceral fat seminar in Oita Prefecture.

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