LBS – Service is Everything

This post comes about for a bit of a disappointing reason, this week I received easily the worst service and experienced the most dreadful LBS visit of my life.

I’ll start with a little background, I know and have shopped in nearly all bike shops in Bournemouth area and try to use them as often as possible. It’s the right thing to do, they need your support and are all pretty reasonable. Yes prices aren’t always as cheap as the internet but weighing in convenience they will be there or there about, and a quick open question will normally render a little discount. It doesn’t hurt to ask! I’ve also worked in both big chain bike shops and smaller independents so understand the pressures and influences in both. Although having moved house in the last year my local bike shop has now changed to this outfit, I’m now located in Highcliffe, and there are no others to choose from within a 3 mile radius. My position at work is that of a multi site manager running business with turnover of £10m+ a year in an extremely competitive marketplace, where customer relationships are everything. Keeping staff focused on that is key, and that is driven by my passion for it it. I’ve been driving customer service for 10+ years and I know what I’m doing. Which is why I found this experience so outrageous.

With the disc conversion on the Saracen in full swing the only thing left to do was connect the calipers up, only thing I needed was new inner cables and a couple of short sections of outer. Local bike shop it is then, its only two cables. Anyway here’s how it went………

Walking into the shop I noticed a nice pre-war Selbach for sale outside so made enquiry about it as small talk, remarking that it was pretty. You would expect the shop worker (who I believe is the owner) to return polite conversation, all I received was “what the pre war one? yeah but I’m looking for offers. Its worth some money, just depends on what someone will offer me and what I decide. It’s not mine I’m selling for someone else. would have to be serious offers. Most of his collection went to Lord Montague so….”. I didn’t even ask the price, and I was already feeling unwelcome! Anyway I pressed on to ask about the brake cables, two inners and outers please. “yeah that’ll be £4 for the outers sold in metre lengths” thought ok sound a little expensive but couldn’t be much more for the inners and asked for two metres of outers. I asked to offer the cables up to a bike so I could work out exactly what I would need to which I received “well don’t you know? no outer is longer than a metre on a bike. How many ends do you want?” to which I replied how I was running the outers and four ends should do it. He grunted sarcastically. The guy then fumbled with his till for a couple of minutes claiming it was playing up (we have near identical units in my company, and this was clearly user error) then rang me up my total. £18. Obviously that’s a ridiculous price for two standard brake cables with two metres of outer so naturally, bolstered by his use of the till, I politely challenged it. This was taken with massive umbrage and unleashed a barrage of ‘justification’. “Yeah that’s what they are, I’ve got even more expensive ones than that. That’s just basic ones.” again asked if he was sure and if he could help out on price, conveying price comparisons with other products I have bought previously. This was a little much to ask apparently , the now incredibly grumpy owner decided to bring out his finest negotiating skills ” well that’s what they are take it our leave it. if you don’t want them leave them”. That was too much for me so I told him there was no way I was paying £18 for two brake cables, and left.

I carried on with my day and popped into Halfords Christchurch, next to a couple of other shops I was visiting. Now say what you will about Halfords, yes they are a national store selling BSO to the general public, but what they do do is ensure a base level of customer service. This is a practice I’m familiar with. I entered the Bikehut section and was immediately asked if I needed any help, so I asked for the price of the cable kit I wanted. £9. Half the price of the local bike shop, and twice the kit (Clarkes kit with cable ends, ferrules, outer, teflon coated inners, and frame rub protectors), and service with a smile. Its not hard to be competitive and its even easier to be polite. The Bikehut member of staff and I chatted for a bit about my previous shop visit and he laughed saying they see a lot of business from that shop and that he had received similar service when he had visited before. Repeat offender it seems!

I want LBS to succeed but they have to have great customer service. Bad business is bad business no matter what sector you are in. Just because you have a captive market (and no competition in a three mile radius) doesn’t mean that you can treat customers new and old poorly. Its a fast track to failure. I surely will not be supporting anyone visiting Lawsons Cycles in Christchurch, in fact I would advise people stay away from there. Christchurch town centre needs another bike shop with good, honest, knowledgeable, and passionate service. Now there’s an idea………………………

BC

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