Not long ago I read Down and Out in Paris and London, George Orwell's brilliant semi-autobiographical portrait of the grimy world behind the scenes of upmarket hotels and restaurants in Paris, and on the streets of London.
His experiences in London don't have much to teach us about service, but I think his observations about high-class restaurants and hotels still have a lot of relevance. He understood that so much of what people call service is just theatre that exists to conceal the grim reality. Staff focus on the "boulot", the job, rather than inherent quality. If customers were ever allowed to see behind the scenes they would be horrified.
“In a hotel a huge and complicated machine is kept running by an inadequate staff, because every man has a well-defined job and does it scrupulously. But there is a weak point, and it is this — that the job the staff are doing is not necessarily what the customer pays for. The customer pays, as he sees it, for good service; the employee is paid, as he sees it, for the boulot — meaning, as a rule, an imitation of good service.”
This captures perfectly the difference between organisations that get it, that are genuinely customer-focused, and those that try to get away with the minimum. Ultimately that comes down to culture, and therefore to the values instilled by the leadership.
What's more important to staff in your organisation—service or the "boulot"?