Of late, our preferred readings are filled with words like ‘customer experience’ and ‘customer delight’ and ‘customer excellence.’

To be honest, those phrases proliferated in the early aughts, in the ‘90s, and just about in any non-recessionary years that recognized the importance of the customer.

Usually accompanying those phrases are the accepted paragons, from entertainment wizard Disney and Seattle retailer Nordstrom to the ladies and gentlemen who work for the Ritz Carlton.  Everyone uses them as exemplars.  Many benchmark their practices, while others actually model new initiatives based on what they’ve uncovered as top-quality customer principles.  Changes in that organization’s customer experience are then rolled out across the businesses, with samples and stories galore.

What’s often missing?  The bottom layer.  The culture.  Genuine care.  A sense that  employees have fully bought into the idea, are schooled in the how-tos, and are completely attuned to customers they talk to, meet, and serve.  And furthermore, they consider it integral to their job success.

We know that, in Japanese primary education, they train all students in the art of omoiyari or hospitality, in the broadest sense.  It’s service that expects nothing and is given with grace and respect to anyone and everyone.  It’s more than just checking a list or delivering from obligations.  It’s simply heartfelt and authentic service.

Being professional, in the best of all ways, means an acute sensitivity to others’ needs and wants.  Though, perhaps, we can’t expect that kind of emotional commitment from a wait or counter person, from a store clerk or a pharmacy associate, we do think it’s time to re-institute the art of work.