I have listened to and read a lot over the past few days about Britain’s ailing high streets. My local high street is no better than anywhere else – despite the local council spending a lot of money improving the city centre environment, numbers of shops in the High Street area are in decline as more people travel to the out-of-town shopping malls or shop online.

I honestly believe that the problem is centred around customer service. When was the last time you had a great customer experience on your local High Street? I am talking about when you were greeted as you entered the store, and subtly made aware that there is someone there to help you, should you need it. They do this very well at John Lewis and Waitrose. Not surprisingly, I haven’t heard of a John Lewis or Waitrose closing, in fact they seem to be slowly expanding.

I went to a well-known health food store in my local High Street last weekend. I was expecting professional service, as this is a well-known brand, but I was staggered to be served by someone who was wearing a scruffy and ill-fitting uniform, who didn’t establish eye contact with me once during our brief conversation, and who told me about the half-price offer ‘if I bought two items’ in the tone of voice that sounded as if she was thoroughly sick of having to say this to every customer. With a standard of service like that, I would be strongly tempted to go online the next time I need to buy some nettle tea.

For me, that is what is driving people away from the High Street – the complete absence of any customer service skills in the majority of retail experiences these days. For me, it is no wonder that so many retailers are going out of business, because they focus only on selling as much as they can and not at all on relationship-building.

If we want to rebuild the success of our High Streets, we need to make them places that people want to go to because they are made welcome. Hospitality isn’t just the preserve of the catering industry – it is everyone’s responsibility to make their customers feel welcome.

Customer service training needs to cover the whole organisation, not just the people at the front line. As Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart said – ‘If you are not serving a customer, you should be serving someone who is’. I’m not sure that culture is still alive in the Wal-Mart family of businesses, but it will be found in John Lewis, Waitrose and anywhere else where you find consistently great customer service.