I almost hesitate writing this because I truly believe in supporting your local bike shop. Without them, neither you nor I would have anywhere to take our bikes for major work or repairs. I’ve got a lot of tools, but I don’t have every bike repair tool needed to do major overhauls, so I depend on a few local shops to step in and complete some of my projects.
Most local bike shops are currently just eeking out an existence with tons of hard work and extra hours. Shop owners are burdened by bloated inventories and disloyal customers and don’t have any clue about how technology can help them build their customer loyalty and expand their customer base. Here are a few ways that local bike shops could stop the bleeding:
- Get a legitimate Web site: Most local bike shops have Web sites. Some are decent while others can barely pass as anything built in this decade. Spending a few hundred bucks on a legitimate Web site with real product information is a start. And, no matter what anyone says… don’t ever, ever spend money on a Flash intro or Flash-based Web site. Let me repeat… EVER!
- Answer your emails: I can’t count on all my fingers and toes the number of emails I’ve sent to a variety of local bike shops in Salt Lake City only to have them fall into a black hole. This is so frustrating! Not only do most bike shops not understand that most customers are working during their hours of operation (10am-6pm), but they do the working stiffs a further disservice by never returning emails.
- Write a blog: Every customer who enters your store has a story to tell. Why don’t you start communicating with your site visitors and customers about unique and/or fun success stories. For example: blog about the time you had to break out the blowtorch just to get that fork race removed or when a dude came in with a real 6th toe to try on bike shoes.
- Use Twitter/Facebook: Micro-blogging and community networking efforts can really attract a following. Just like a blog but even easier, Twitter is an awesome tool to send out quick updates, product photos, fun bike builds, happy customers, etc. Many businesses are sending out discount coupons to their Twitter followers with great success.
- Charge reasonable service rates: I’m all for making money on service and repairs, but I’ve been charged anything from nothing to $25 just to install a fork race. I mean, it takes a whole 5 minutes max to remove a Chris King fork race and install it on another fork… $25! <shakes head>
- Improve customer service: This goes along with not answering emails, but also extends to the showroom floor. When all you can afford are untrained 16-yr-old’s or grumpy middle-aged, unhelpful employees, you’re not going to give a good image to your business. The whole bro/brah thing can only go so far, then it gets annoying.
It’s time for local bike shops to step it up a notch and get with the times. If anyone knows of a true local bike shop that is following these suggestions, chime in. I’m unaware of any, but hopeful that some are taking strides in the right direction. We need local bike shops and unless they do start doing these things, there may be fewer and fewer to choose from