Best Buy to close fifty stores: rethinking the value of face to face advice with the Internet

If you have visited  any US  Best Buy store you would have noted the quite extraordinary knowledge and talent of their store sales force. So it is a disappointing to learn  that Best Buy will be closing 50 stores. Because neither the stores or the sales people can be much better. It's just that the value of face-to-face advice has come into serious question in the Internet age. People seem to go to Best Buy to learn and understand complicated technology from the great salespeople and then compare prices at A few hundred dollars less does matter in a tough economy.

The trouble is that this is happening in different sectors of the economy. Here are  three examples:

  • Doctors: If you feel mildly sick you first check symptoms on the Internet before thinking about your doctor and the co-pay. And if it is routine stuff like the Flu shot you could go to the local pharmacy or a nurse at 20% of the cost.When you do see the doctor you might be carrying a thick folder of printouts of "possible diagnosis" as a friend does. One can imagine that the doctor is not happy with all this self diagnosis, even from respected sites like Mayo Clinic.
  • Lawyers: are losing routine business to all kinds of software for standard stuff like Wills etc. from sites like LegalZoom.
  • Accountants and Tax preparers: are wondering at why their remaining clients balk so much at fees. Clients are thinking  of on-line free or at least low cost tax prep software like TurboTax.

Note that all three examples above are situations where highly trained neighborhood professionals, with years of training are facing the onslaught of the efficiencies of the Internet and search. The routine parts of the professional's jobs are being done by an Internet based service.

So what should all folks in knowledge based professions do? A first step is to understand and accept that all routine stuff in that profession will be digitized and will be available online – almost for free or at a fraction of what the professional charges today. The higher end complicated stuff needs more knowledge and training but the market does get smaller. In other words, a competent professional  who  does mainly routine stuff might become an endangered species in all professions to :  the Internet. Contact StratoServe.

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