The Perfect Bike Shop Customer
STIRLING SENIOR is back, and he unpacks the different types of shoppers who regularly enter his store.
With the festive season around the corner and many of the political and corporate ‘crooks’ (who have almost completely screwed our economy) being found out we – consumers and traders alike – hope that the mood and sentiment will improve, and we can spend our hard-earned cash on our passions. So, its a good time to look at the relationship between customers and retailers. Especially between cyclists and bike stores where the passion for the sport and the product is shared.
Bike shop customers come in many guises. Its these different characters that make our days in the store interesting, fun, pleasant, frustrating, irritating, pleasurable, exasperating, exciting, downright miserable, boring, ecstatic …
THE PERFECT CUSTOMER
Despite what you’re about to read, the majority of bike shop’s customers fall under this category. Regulars often become good friends and riding mates. They are ambassadors for the store and bring smiles to our faces when they pop in – even if it’s just for a coffee and a chat.
What makes the perfect customer?
- He books his bike in for a service and collects it as agreed or he lets us know if his circumstances change.
- When he buys his bike, he accepts the deal as it is offered or arm-wrestled – which is usually a combination of added value and some discount (and we end up at a place where both buyer and seller appreciate the ‘deal’).
- He respects our business as he would expect us to respect his trade, business or profession. In fact, many of our customers have become our suppliers. Our store, or us as individuals, do business with them.
Most bike shops will always look after their regulars for their necessities (tubes, bombs, nutrition, lubes, sealant etc.) at the till or add value by providing a loan fork or brakes or even a demo or second-hand bike when his/her bike can’t be ready in time. We’ll do time-consuming insurance valuations and quotations at no charge and usually in our spare time.
But bike shop life isn’t always a box of chocolates and we have to deal with these customers as well:
THE TYRE SQUEEZER
In the automotive game they call this guy the tyre kicker. Difficult in a bike shop as kicking can result in catastrophic damage. After a few squeezes, he soon resorts to flicking the frame. If he has a friend with him, he’ll be brazen enough to take the bike off the display rack, do some bike lifting and even a little bounce or two. All the while telling the sales assistant that “It’s okay, I am just looking”. In two weeks, time he is back doing the same thing. Occasionally he’ll buy a tube or
an energy bar.
There are two types of ‘know-it-all’. Those that do (yes, we have many regular customers who really do know their stuff and we learn from them) and those that don’t … you know … know it all. And it so difficult to get the know-it-all to realise he doesn’t know it all.
There is the potential buyer and then there is the ‘friend’ – he is often the know-it-all. They arrive together. The potential buyer asks the sales guy the question and the friend answers. If the sales guy eventually manages to answer, the friend disagrees with, or embellishes on the answer. More often than not, the friend’s advice is inaccurate. The poor sales guy has two choices: walk away or politely ask the friend to let him get on with the sale. Not easy.
THE SEX MANIAC
You guessed it: this is the customer whose primary objective is to screw the bike shop on price – often armed with a verbal discounted price from an opposition store. The more experienced ‘sex maniac’ will at least have the ‘decency’ of some foreplay before intercourse actually occurs! Just the other day we had customer ‘desperately’ wanting a 2019 Stumpjumper. We followed up on our quote only to be told by him that he’d bought a different brand bike because their discount was much bigger. In other words, the discount was enough for him to change his mind to a brand that wasn’t even on his radar!
THE BEST BUDDY
This is the aforementioned sex maniac who wears the salesperson down to cutting the shops margin by almost half, pays for the bike and leaves, a satisfied customer with a ‘happy ending’. Phew, relief all round. Two days later he returns, smile on his dial, high fives all round, “howzit my pal” … wait for it, he has his best buddy with him. Same deal, same price. Eina!
An entitled customer is the worst type of customer to deal with and difficult to describe because, mostly, we never see them. Entitled customers are best described by their actions:
- His driver usually drops his bike off (mostly without a workshop booking).
- His wife usually collects his bike (often days or weeks after the agreed collection date).
- If neither are available, he expects the bike shop to collect or drop off his bike – usually after hours. Even then, there is sometimes no one at home to receive the bike. When someone is at home there is often a Rottweiler to welcome us!
- His assistant pays his bill (usually after a few reminders and occasionally, never).
- The entitled customer will almost always blame the store for everything that goes wrong during his ride.
THE SOCIAL MEDIA MASS MURDERER – SMMM
As a bike shop owner, I am the first to admit that bike shops can and do sometimes drop the ball. We have all made mistakes: the important thing is to apologise and correct the mistake. The SMMM usually doesn’t let the shop know that we’ve dropped the ball and immediately resorts to Twitter or Facebook (or a cycle-specific site) and hangs us out to dry. Often, we haven’t dropped any balls at all – for example, the workshop is fully booked before a major event and we have to turn a walk-in customer away. The store is labelled as ‘arrogant, inflexible and disinterested’.
THE ON-LINE BARGAIN HUNTER
Obviously, as a brick-and-mortar store committed to rent, staff and stock, we’re not wild about our customers buying bicycle bits ’n pieces on-line. Sure, our prices are likely to be higher. When customers buy from us (instead of on-line) we’ll always fit the item at no additional charge, the item will fit, and the purchase will be accompanied with a guarantee, good advice and a full retail experience.
Sure, should we be unable to supply the item we will even help the customer identify and source the correct product on-line and arrange fitment if required. If your bike shop has stock of a certain item (or can get it for you) let him have the on-line item’s price (important: include any delivery charges, taxes and duty) and give him the chance to match the price or get pretty close. We have this arrangement with a number of our customers. Win-win.
The secret to attracting as many perfect customers as possible is for the bike shop also to be as perfect as possible. So, as a reminder to ourselves and bike shops out there:
Treat your customers as you would expect them to treat you and you’ll be amazed at how many perfect customers you’ll have.