Regardless if you have bought your bike or shop for your components and accessories online, at some point, you will visit a bike shop.
In New York City, there are all kinds of bike shops. You will find small bike shops that are a staple of the neighborhood while others are highly specialized. There are bigger bike shops that have an online catalog, a wide assortment of bikes available and even a coffee shop. Then you have even bigger bike shops that sell high-end bicycles and components, offer specialized services and have established online shopping.
But what do all these bike shops have in common?
They are in the business of customer service.
Customer service is one of the most important aspects of the purchasing process. Great customer service makes the customer keep coming back and looking at you as the first shop they will go to when they need something. On the other hand, bad customer service will turn off your customer and make them stop coming to your shop, regardless of how good your product is.
During my cycling experience, I have found that good customer service is hard to find at bike shops. Sometimes, the same shop has offered completely different service during different visits. Is it just because it’s New York City, or is that a trend that is common within the cycling industry? Do owners even care about the service that their employees give to the customer, or they only care about making a profit?
So what do I mean by bad customer service?
- Walking into a bike shop without getting acknowledged by an associate.
- Lack of interest in helping
- Engage in conversations with other associates or customers while attending me
During such instances in which I experienced either one of those, the shop was not busy…
Is this normal?
As you can imagine, NYC has a lot of bike shops. The first bike I purchased was a single speed from a small bike shop in the West Village that mostly focused on bike rentals. The following bike was a fixed gear bike that I researched and purchased all the components online and had 2 different shops, Bicycle Habitat and Sid’s Bikes, involved in the process of assembling it. I bought my first road bike from Tread Bike Shop, my local shop, as well as the shoes, cleats and pedals. Finally, I bought the KTM Revelator online, had it assembled by Tread Bike Shop and had R&A Cycles perform the fitting.
Besides purchasing and assembling the different bikes I’ve owned, I have had experiences with a lot more bike shops during the time I’ve been riding in NYC. Sometimes I visited other shops to see the products they carried. Other times, I needed to buy a product and that shop was conveniently located during my commute. There’s even the unfortunate times when you have a puncture or something goes wrong when you’re riding and need to find the closest shop to get it fixed.
Considering the evolution of the industry and online shopping, the only thing that separates physical bike shops from online retailers is customer service. If you can’t even do that right, why should I even spend my money at your store when I can buy from the comfort of my home?
Personally, I believe that good customer service is the key to success, hence why I always look for a shop that makes me feel like I’m cared for.
Is that too much to ask for?
Unfortunately, it seems that bike shops judge the customer walking through the door based on 2 aspects:
- The bicycle he/she is riding
- The clothing he/she is wearing
If you walk in with a Pinarello Dogma F8 wearing a Rapha kit, chances are most bike shops will put down the red carpet for you, polish your shoes and even close down the store for you. Walk in with a less known brand, a cheaper model or even an older bike, and your experience will be completely different.
Not that long ago, I walked into a bike shop on a Thursday afternoon during my ride looking for a pair of winter gloves. I was the only customer in the store, and for the roughly 10 minutes that I spent looking at different gloves and browsing around, nobody even said “Hello”. While I didn’t find a pair of gloves, I decided to get a coffee to warm up a bit before heading home. To my surprise, and even though they have a “full” coffee bar, one of the employees that was behind the espresso machine, told me that they don’t really make coffee during the week. While I did get some sort of coffee, it was definitely not what I was looking for. However, that wasn’t even the worst part!
Being a brand ambassador for KTM, I’ve been trying to help KTM find a shop that will carry their bikes. This shop was on the list that I sent to KTM, due to their support of GFNY, the selection of bikes that they carry and the services they offer. As I was waiting for the coffee to be made, the owner walked over, moved my bike from the place where I had it (maybe it was in the way?) and then mentioned how KTM had reached out to him to see if he was interested in carrying the brand. He laughed, along with the employee who was not interested in making my coffee, and walked away.
Good service > Good products
On the other hand, a great experience happened on Sunday. After I bought the Giro Empire ACC shoes, I knew the cleats were not adjusted properly as I was experiencing some knee discomfort. I decided to stop by R&A Cycles to see if they could adjust the cleats. Since Alberto, my fitter, hasn’t been there in a while and I couldn’t wait to get the cleats adjusted, I hoped that someone else would be able to help me. While I’m not a regular at R&A, I’ve had 2 different bike fittings there. As soon as Felix saw me, he came to greet me, asked me how everything was, how my riding was going and how he could help me. As soon as I mentioned cleats, he sent me to Tristan, who took a quick look and made some minor adjustments that should help me. In less than 5 minutes, I had the shoes back on my feet ready to try them out. As I was lacing my shoes, Felix noticed one of my brake cables were a bit loose. Without hesitation, he adjusted both brakes. Then, as we were talking, he pointed out how the seat was pointing down slightly, which made my body shift forward. I was a bit hesitant about changing anything due to Alberto’s great fitting, but I know that anytime Felix has mentioned something to me, it has always worked. So in no time, he had raised the front of the saddle and with a smile, he told me to ride it around the block and see how it feels. Sure enough, Felix was right. Both the shoes and the saddle adjustment made a big difference.
In my opinion, that is great customer service.
How have your experiences been? Please share with me by commenting below!