We all remember that classic image of a bicycle workshop from our youth. I have a very strong memory of walking into my local IBD at the age of 14 with a bent crank arm, and staring in wonder at the notoriously gruff mechanic prowling around his cave at the back of the shop as he fixed a bike worth more money than I thought I’d ever have. My local bike shop was more of a club than anything, and whilst that was undeniably cool to a young punk like myself, the talented team’s antisocial ethos was probably a core contributing factor in its downturn and eventual closure.
It’s been a decade since I walked into that shop for the last time, and things have definitely changed. For one thing, the shops that have sprung up in my local area are not only talented at fixing all manner of complicated jobs on the myriad of bikes that are wheeled through their doors on a daily basis, but they’ve also put a serious focus on not only maintaining a high quality of customer service, and communicating to the customer exactly what needs to be done, and who will do it.
The mechanic in my local shop doesn’t limit his activities to the workshop; he’s also a key member of the sales team and whilst he may upsell accessories or bikes, what he’s mainly selling is his own skillset. By giving the customer an insight into the job that needs to be done, they not only understand their bike more, they also appreciate the time, resources and effort that go into getting it fighting fit and ready for action.
That customer may be a weathered road-warrior or he may be an inexperienced 14 year old with a bent crank arm, but If they feel like the shop is on their side, they will sing its praises to others who may have had bad experiences in the past, and they will definitely come back.
“In my experience as a consumer, when you’re having cycle repairs done, transparency makes all the difference,” commented BikeBiz editor Hayley Fergusson when the issue was discussed in the magazine’s HQ. “Telling clients exactly what you’re doing with their belongings offers them agency: they understand exactly what their hard-earned cash is being spent on, and can make an educated decision about whether or not they consider the maintenance necessary.
“That, in itself, makes someone more likely to come back and spend again. In explaining the details, you’re making it all their idea. Giving a customer a clear picture of the technical work that will go into a job also supports the accurate perception that your labour is of value. Many office workers aren’t entirely clear on what you do, but when it concerns their bike, they’ll be more than happy to listen."
[Photo courtesy of http://www.bikeworks.org.uk]