• US Economic Decline: Whatever Happened to Serving the Customer?

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    There has been
    much speculation on the causes of the US economy’s reluctance
    to return to healthy growth: a commercial life which once seemed
    to hold the secret of eternal expansion now seems to have lost the
    ability to recover.

    My most recent
    visit inclines me to make an entirely anecdotal and inexpert contribution
    to this debate. When I was growing up in America – and working
    my way through university in jobs that involved serving the public
    – there was a sacred principle of employed life in the US:
    the customer may not always be right but he is always to be treated
    as if his needs and desires were paramount. The efficiency, courtesy
    and helpfulness provided by retail businesses was one of the great
    hallmarks of American life (and one that made a huge impression
    on European customers who were accustomed to being treated like
    grateful supplicants by those who deigned to provide them with any
    service at all). Over the years of return visits to the US I have
    noticed a really alarming decline in standards of behaviour and
    competence: attitudes which would have meant at least a serious
    warning if not instant sacking a generation ago now seem to go unmonitored
    and unreformed as a matter of course.

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    4, 2010

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