You can find customer service positions in many Japanese companies operating in Germany. However, this position is slightly different from other customer service positions in Germany in general. In this article, we will explain the characteristics of said position in Japanese companies.

The Customer Service position in Germany?

In Japanese, the customer service position is mostly called “sales assistant”, as, within Japanese companies, it is known as a regional sales position. The role in question does not require any specific university specialization, and it is mainly regarded as a possible career development-entry point for women who have graduated from junior college or university in Japan.

The difference between this job and a sales job is that in most cases you are not responsible for actual sales figures, and that it does not generally involve travel. The average salary for a customer service position in a Japanese company is around 25,000 to 30,000EUR. It is popular among people whose partners are often transferred to other companies, and also among other locals, as it is easy to move to another company.

The customer service role in a Japanese company in Germany is characterized by the fact that it requires language skills since it revolves around international business. Thus, in addition to the traditional duties of a German customer service representative, the position also requires language skills, trade knowledge, and cross-cultural communication skills.

  • An extension of what in Germany is known as a customer service representative.
  • Language skills, trade knowledge, and cross-cultural communication skills are required.

Job description

So, what are the specific duties of a customer service representative working for a Japanese company in Germany?

The work generally entails detailed support for European customers, which are acquired and managed by sales. A customer may, for example, make requests such as these for customer service to meet: “Do you have xx in stock?”, “I would like to place an order and to receive a quotation for the following products.”, and/or “I would like a bill of lading issued”.

Traditional duties of the customer service representative in Japanese companies include order management and correspondence with customers (in English and/or German, and so forth). At a slightly higher level of difficulty, they are also entrusted with (for trade outside Germany and trilateral trade): liaising with forwarders, arranging trade insurance, arranging accounts receivable insurance, estimating transportation costs, arranging invoices and managing accounts receivable.

Since the position includes negotiating with various departments within the company ( such as the logistics department, sales department, and accounting department) teamwork is essential. Accordingly, if you are working in customer service, you need to be able to handle difficult situations in a friendly manner – without panicking.

As mentioned above, sales targets are rarely set for this position, and, since customer service receives orders from customers via email at a high pace, most of the work is devoted to answering such questions and responding to customers. Accurate and prompt order management and strengthening of internal communication are required of the customer service representative, and if such results are achieved, you may be promoted to an “Innendienst (non-business trip sales) position”.

  • Few business-trips, and few face-to-face interactions with clients
  • Receiving orders from sales and customers, entering those into the system, and making order arrangements
  • As the hub of various departments company-internal teamwork is important
  • English and German skills language are required (especially for writing emails)
  • No responsibility for sales figures

Application requirements

As you have probably noted, the customer service position in a Japanese company in Germany is like a regional sales rep in a German company. So, what are the specific requirements for applying?

Since there are many cases where you will be communicating directly with customers both within Germany and abroad via e-mail, language skills are inevitably required. When it comes to English, B2 or higher is required, whereas Japanese language skills (although not a must) are desirable. This is the standard requirement for most customer service positions at Japanese companies in Germany.

B1 B2 C1
IELTS 4.0~5.0 5.5~6.5 7.0~8.0
TOEFL iBT 42~71 72~94 95~
Cambridge Scale 140~159 160~179 180~200
TOEIC 550~784 785~944 945~

In this case, the job history section is one of the important parts of the application. If you have experience in customer service at a Japanese company, especially in this type of company-internal order management, you will be highly valued by Japanese companies in Germany and your chances of getting job offers will increase greatly.

In particular, since this position is the teamwork-cornerstone within the company, it is a prerequisite that you are familiar with Japanese business culture, manners, and email writing. Furthermore, since you will be dealing with customers in Germany and Europe, you will be required to have knowledge of European culture and cross-cultural communication skills.

Lastly, experience with Office applications such as Powerpoint, Excel and Word is also a minimum requirement.

  • English at least at B2 level
  • Japanese language skills are highly sought-after
  • Microsoft Powerpoint, Excel, and Word skills are required
  • Previous experience working as a customer service representative in a Japanese company is very advantageous
  • The ability to communicate properly with Westerners is required

Sought-after skills

In addition to the application requirements mentioned above, the following assets may prove useful. Since Japanese companies in Germany often function as the European headquarters of the company in question, negotiations with countries outside of Germany are frequent. Having a background in another language other than English such as another European language (for example Spanish, French, Russian, etc.) is therefore very beneficial.

As you may also (on top of order management) be required to prepare documents, liaise with forwarders, perform insurance-related tasks, and so forth, prior knowledge of these trade practices is highly appreciated.

Depending on the company, quality control (quality management) of products once they are brought to Germany from Japan (or other production sites) may also be required as one of the said position’s (possibly) many tasks, and having a grasp of this field can prove rewarding when it comes to future salary increases.

Furthermore, since you may have to dabble in some accounting matters, having knowledge of areas such as preparing invoices and arranging accounts receivable insurance is a bonus (although you do not need to have it mastered).

  • Background in European languages
  • International trade knowledge
  • Quality management capability
  • Accounting and financial skills

Suitable personality traits

As far as personality is concerned, because the work involves communication with customers in different European countries via e-mail and telephone, a person that enjoys interactions with people from various countries would perhaps be the most suitable.

On the other hand, since it is important to work closely with Japanese expatriates and salespeople within the company, a befitting personality would encompass a high level of communication skills, attentiveness, and being amiable, steady, and collected.

  • cross-cultural communication skills
  • Being able to be attentive
  • Aptitude for slow and steady work

What kind of skills can be learnt?

Finally, we will discuss what kind of skills you will develop if you work as a customer service representative in this kind of environment.

Since most of the work is conducted via email and phone with companies set in Germany and abroad, your English and German language skills will naturally improve. Some companies will cover the cost of language training for that purpose, which is ideal for those who want to get a job that makes the most use of their language skills.

Lastly, as mentioned above, because customer service representatives are in demand in almost every company in Germany, it is known to be an in-demand position. Meaning, if you have acquired previous experience at a Japanese company in Germany, you will be able to develop your career without much difficulty, and can with ease find other jobs in the future (for example, if your partner is transferred).

  • Develop excellent language skills
  • Practical trade skills
  • This will give you an advantage in the job market at Japanese companies in Germany

For sales and customer service jobs in Germany, see the list below.