It is sad and an easily observable decline of the service industry in the U.S. Can you remember the last time you went to a retail store or a place of business and received exceptional service? Shouldn't exceptional service be the benchmark these days? With so many people out of work why isn't every business taking the opportunity to top grade their staff? Think of shopping in the consumer electronics retail stores these days, it is pathetic that the 30 minutes of research on the internet I did before going to the store armed me with more product knowledge than the 17 year old hourly associate that was hired two days ago. I think retailers and merchants in general have lost faith in consumer loyalty. While I might agree that consumer behavior isn't the way it used to be in the old days when consumers were less fickle I think it because bad habits have trained us to be this way. We have learned to expect poor service, uneducated staff and poor buying advice from the places we buy stuff. Therefore we take matters into our own hands and what seems to end up mattering at that point is price alone. I buy a lot of stuff online but I generally have price threshold or set of rules I apply to myself when I do buy online. Things like 'will I ever need to return this?', 'what if I have a problem, can I get help?'. So as it turns out I buy stuff I generally know I won't return or I buy from a big name like an Amazon, Apple, etc. where I know the recourse is there if needed. When I think about it though, what has forced me to be mainly an online consumer is simply a lack of trust that the knowledge I can provide myself is much better than the what the stores I would shop in can provide. After spending many years in retail I find it utterly disturbing to see the state it is in. I just don't understand why retail leaders don't recognize how important it is to build consumer loyalty through actually having trained, knowledgeable, friendly and communicative staff facing the consumer. True consumer loyalty to your brand, store or service doesn't generally come from some semi beneficial points program, direct mail discount card, or rewards club. It comes from having a pleasurable and repeatable experience between people. The long term benefits of creating a truly strong consumer oriented culture far outweighs the capital investment to achieve it. I find it appalling how many companies actually try to sell their service as a strength yet the actual experience is far from what their leadership thinks is being delivered. Many retailers make such huge mistakes by pushing all of their budgets to get you into their store and drive consumer traffic only to miserably fail at converting shoppers to buyers because of little or no investment in the people these consumers are actually facing. The other problem I see a lot is retention of the best staff. On the rare occasion I actually have a pleasant experience in shopping for something or eating at a restaurant and I decide to go back because of it, I find the person or people I had that experience through are no longer there. The horrible thing is that these people were probably never recognized, paid or supported properly inside the organization so they left or were let go. And it usually happens that the level of people I am exposed to the second time around just don't get it. If I were running a retail organization today or service oriented business I honestly think it would be refreshing to build a culture that delivers what the consumer deserves instead of what they have been forced to accept.