I'm sure that countless businesses over the past years, or even decades, have responded enthusiastically to the clarion call for a return to the values of customer service, excellence, and caring.

Business leaders have tried to imbue their companies with these values by creating "vision statements," "mission statements," and/or "values statements," and by manufacturing a "corporate culture" that describes and promotes these values.

If this sounds like you and your business, you're obviously not alone.

So, I ask you, how's that been working out for you?

Have your employees been transformed into "authentically caring" messengers of your brand?

Are your customers now singing your praises in ways you couldn't have imagined before you started out on this excellence journey, rewarding you with the customer loyalty you always felt your company deserved?

I'll wager to say that, despite the initial fervor such clarion calls have created, most of the businesses who jumped on the customer service bandwagon operate in pretty much the same way today as they did before the flag was raised.

With equally slipshod service and mediocre performance as before the great shift of attention. 

With as greedy and self-serving a mindset as ever.

No service to speak of, little excellence in sight, and, unfortunately, not a hint of what the word "caring" really means.

That's because neither "service," nor "excellence," nor "caring" can ever be produced by executive fiat. 

Or by wishing it so. 

Or by written pronouncement distributed via email, or codified on parchment paper, or emblazoned on the wall in elegant calligraphy.

Unfortunately, the adoption of service, excellence, and caring as slogans, masquerading as strategic options to revive a flaccid business, is not only antithetical to the true meaning of those words, but it's as cynical as anything our Machiavellian minds can produce.

Moreover, it won't work.

"Service," "excellence," and "caring" are not something you can do anything about in the usual management way--because they are a state of mind, not a function as most managers have come to think.

In short, they are qualities.

And when a business is bereft of such qualities, it is because its founders, its owners, and its managers are bereft of such qualities.

Which means that a customer service system that arises from a cynical, profit-motivated stratagem can never work.

It would be like "putting lipstick on a pig" or "trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear."

You've heard those expressions.

They represent fakery.

Just as a system without the underlying value as its source represents fakery.

You do need systems to orchestrate, monitor and improve service, excellence, and caring, of course.

But the idea of them--the state of mind of them--must come first.

And that's because the inherent value of them precedes the implementation of them.

First comes the values and belief system of the owners.

Then you create the system to discover the team that shares and embodies those values.

Then you build the systems to bring those values to life, both to the customer and to all your stakeholders.

Then, and only then, will your company be able to deliver true customer service.

Not from a bandwagon, but from its very soul.

Published on: Jul 25, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.