A customer for life

Unearth Marketing’s Jack Davey talks maintaining customers, from annual services and post-purchase timelines to shop rides and local events

Over the last 12 months, there’s been a huge spike in interest in outdoor pursuits and the bike trade has seen a good proportion of that. When bikes have been available (I’m sure we’ve all heard enough about supply chain issues), they’ve been handed over to customers before even hitting the shop floor.

But what about the future? Inevitably we will start to run out of people to convert to a life behind bars, but that doesn’t mean the end of opportunity. Acquiring new customers is expensive. Keeping hold of a customer you already have is significantly less so. So what do you need to do? Let’s assume that you already deliver world-class customer service, and the customer thoroughly enjoyed their first experience spending in your shop. They’ve got no reason not to come back, so it’s time to make sure they do.

Post-purchase timeline
The first couple of years of bicycle ownership contains some lessons to learn and the odd bump in the road, but guide the customer through and they’ll be hooked. Once they’re in, nobody leaves the bicycle life behind.

Six-week service
The first checkup on that new bike you sold is your next point of contact with that customer. Get in touch with them and make sure they book in – it’s easy to set up automated processes for this. As a new rider, all that chat about cable stretch may not have sunk in and you could have a customer out there feeling less and less pleased with their purchase.

Chasing up for the six-week service ensures the customer feels cared for, is a chance to address any problems they may have, but most importantly puts them physically back in your shop. If this 15-minute workshop task can be covered while they wait, you also have the opportunity to catch up on how they’ve been getting on and advise if they have questions (but only if they have questions – unsolicited advice is a pretty big turn off).

It’s also some time spent in the shop, idly browsing, perhaps considering those accessories that a month ago they didn’t think they needed, but actually that wearable lock would be pretty convenient…

Shop rides and events
So your new customer is becoming more acquainted with their ride – perhaps they’ll be interested in learning how to keep on top of basic maintenance, or joining the regular group ride from the shop? Out-of-hours, or off-site, these are occasions to engage with a customer in an alternative setting.

Without wanting to seem too mercenary, it’s true that every interaction with a customer is an opportunity to sell something. However, here that should not be the primary focus – try to forget about it. Encouraging their riding career and interest will lead to sales organically. Of course, if they do mention a slipping chain after a group ride and you pop a wear indicator on there it’s pretty likely to lead to our next point.

Annual service
After about a year of ownership, it’s worth getting in touch with your customer again. All things being well, they’ve been putting that bike to good use and the drivetrain parts will be coming to the end of their useful life. You want to be sure that the customer knows you have their best interests at heart, and you’re not simply selling them parts they don’t really need.

Explain the whys and hows – keep it simple but don’t be patronising – and direct the customer to articles online if you think it will help them feel informed. Ideally, this will be original content on your own website: always keep them close to home. Equally, if you have a customer who’s really got the bug, this may be the right time to start getting nerdy and talking gear ratios and tyre compounds.

Selling upgrades shouldn’t be part of your mechanic’s remit but if the customer’s interest in cycling has been sufficiently propagated then those conversations will come to you.

Keep the wheels turning
At this point, the process is more or less rinse-and-repeat. You want a customer that feels comfortable talking through their riding gear thoughts, that knows they’re getting honest advice, and will keep coming back happy to put their hand in their pocket.

If anybody knows how easy it is to then dip a toe – or a leg – into other disciplines of riding, it’s you lot reading this. And the wheel keeps on turning.

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