My company offers the cycle to work scheme so I am very lucky that I can chose a new bike every year and take advantage of the great tax savings that come with it. So this year was no different. I received my voucher and went along to my local Halfords. This year due to previous experiences I chose a new branch to see whether the service would be any better.
I picked up my bike last week and have nothing but issues with it. I must add, Halfords staff was excellent as regards customer service, their bike building skills are almost nonexistent however. That's my moan over, but the experience did get me thinking about the quality of service delivery within the cycle industry and my experience over the past few years.
As a manager in the hotel hospitality industry I spend much of my time working on service improvements. We look at ways of improving the product as well as the staff training to deliver that product effectively. We have to create our product as our service is our product. From an outsider the cycle industry seems to see it differently. I will point out at this point that I have not visited every cycle shop and that my experiences vary significantly.
However, what seems to be very much an overriding feeling is that cycling expects the products to sell and that the technology and the standards in equipment to dazzle their clients. Customer service seems to be distinctly lacking or not geared the large majority of those shopping.
Many independent shops whose owners are very passionate cyclists tend to expect the clients entering their shops to be of the same ilk with the same understanding of bikes and equipment. Often simply walking into these shops can give a very real intimidating feeling. Not really a conducive environment to buy. In the large chains you often have the opposite where young ill trained staff provide no or poor advice. My first bike was bought with an answer to the question of what size bike should I buy being "whatever one you feel most comfortable on". The fact I had already told him I had no idea how to choose the bike did not stop this ridiculous response?
There are some fantastic independent as well as chains of shops. Evans for instance has always given me reason to return, despite their relatively high costs their service levels and customer focus is excellent.
I do feel though as an industry cycling needs to look at the way its sells bikes and equipment. Not everyone is a techi and people need to be encouraged to enter cycle shops. Independent shops want to steal clients from the bigger stores. To do so they need to attract the average Joe, the families and the commuter. To do that they need to make the experience softer and the service stronger. They have the product, they have the expertise, add the customer service skills from industries like hospitality and restaurants and not only will more people be attracted to the sport but the industry will increase sales.
Cycling is a technical sport and this leads many shops scare and intimidate. It’s not done on purpose but shop owners need to take this on board. Those that do will find their profits increase and their reputations get a much wider scope.