I just read an unnerving post in a local cycling group’s Facebook feed. The page manager, who is one of our guests, bought a bike online, and made mention of it in the group. I didn’t see the initial post, but saw a retraction and apology from my friend, which came about because someone gave him crap for not buying from local shops (I’m assuming it was a local shop… most random cyclists don’t care about supporting local shops… just those invested in the shops).
Here’s the skinny on bike shop guys: we love loyal customers. At my current shop, we do our best to build RAVING customers, who believe in our brand (not the bike company, but our shop and staff), and who bring in their friends to give them the opportunity to experience the best introduction to cycling that we can provide.
When we see a good friend and customer come into our shop with a bike purchased somewhere else, it stings a little. We really want our customers to fully buy into what we’re selling. Is it the be-all, end-all of the relationship with that customer? Not a chance. Every time someone walks through our doors is another chance for us to knock their socks off with customer service. Do we shame our customer for buying something elsewhere? No. We continue to support our customer in any way we can, regardless of which bike the customer brings in.
What about internet bikes? Why not support the local shop? I completely understand a shop owner or staffer getting a little upset over internet purchases. I’ve gotten a little irate about the way things are in reference to online sales, gray market component prices, and poor quality knock-off bits through back door channels. Guess what? It’s not worth losing a customer over. There are some things we won’t work on and some things we won’t do, for safety and liability reasons. We have a responsibility to educate and inform our customers that we will provide a better level of service than an online retailer. If a bike is purchased elsewhere, are we going to give our free lifetime adjustments and our 30-day money back guarantee? Nope. We charge what we charge, we sell what we sell, and if someone wants to choose to buy things elsewhere, so be it.
How do we win in this situation? Hold our line. Take care of each guest the same. Provide the best customer service experience that we possibly can. We can’t win them all. We can’t wear our hearts on our sleeve in this industry. As much as we want loyalty from our customers, it’s rarely the case anymore. A select few guests spend all their cycling dollars at one shop. Just stay the course.
What do we learn from this? Shaming a customer for being stoked about a purchase made online, and bringing them down from the “cycling high” they are on… that’s a load of crap. Negative comments and forum chatter like that travel WAY faster than a positive experience. If someone from a shop (and I hope it wasn’t a shop) put me on blast like that, I’d never spend another dollar with them.
What do you think about customer loyalty? Is it ever appropriate to shame someone into a retraction or apology for spending their hard-earned money where they please? If so, how would you tactfully handle that and keep a customer at the same time? Please… discuss.