Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Unique Customer Experiences in the Bicycle Industry - My Bike Shop

My bike shop is tucked in the back of a little strip mall not far from Santa Clara University. I say my bike shop, because this is one of those places that truly delivers a Word of Mouth recommendation for customer experience. I also say my bike shop, because if you thought knowing the In and Out secret menu or how to order at Starbucks made you part of an exclusive club, you're still probably SOL when it comes to making it into the inside circle here.

But this post isn't really a Rosetta stone for decrypting the inside language of the bike shop, this is about customer experience.

Not Much Walk In Business
If, by some strange twist of fate, you happened to walk into my bike shop from off the street thinking about buying a bike, they probably aren't going to sell you one. My bike shop doesn't carry a lot of inventory, so the first thing that they will probably do (assuming that they choose to recognize you) is to try and understand why you are there. Part of the fitting process is understanding what you're looking for from cycling, and if it seems like you're one of those people who needs bike Tour-stage winning bike to ride around the park, you probably won't find it here.

My bike shop often sells custom fit bicycles. If you're going to my bike shop to buy a bike, you're probably unlikely to walk out of the store with one on the same day. Also, San Jose has one of the only velodromes in the country, and my bike shop sells track bikes, but if you're one of those bike messenger wannabe's that thinks a fixed gear bike would be cool, they probably won't sell you a bike. The number of mountain bikes for sale in my bike shop -- zero.

My Bike Shop Does a Lot of Business in Repairs
Repairs. Ongoing bicycling maintenance. Relationships with the community. My bike shop understands old school cycling, bicycles and components that last for decades, that can be repaired (and have been repaired) for decades. My bike shop doesn't promote mechanical parts that will be EOLed in five years. From my Italian shift levers to the rubber pieces in my bicycle pump, I can go to my bike shop and get my stuff fixed. As I mentioned in a previous post, I often ride on sew-up tires. These days, most bike shops don't sell sew-ups and few people know what they are -- I trust my bike shop to glue on my sew-ups, and their sign about about sew-ups is probably what made me a customer almost ten years ago.

My bike shop makes you part of their family. They keep two repair stands close to the front counter, and a bench / bleacher seat on the other side of the counter. During the day, it's not uncommon for customers to be sitting around, hanging out in the bleacher seats, visiting with the guys working on bikes. Conversations range from cycling and club rides to politics and bad jokes. Sometimes the language is NSFW. The kid at Performance is just turning a wrench, but YOUR friend is actually fixing YOUR bike.

A Couple of Funny Things
When your a customer of my bike shop, you'd better be riding -- because deep down, you know that the only reason that they let you in the club and that they're willing to do business with you is because you are a cyclist. You aren't just one of those people who buy an off the shelf experience and logo-wear, you are serious about cycling and about the time that you spend in the saddle. Deep down, you and everyone at the shop knows that the only reason why you are allowed to be there is because there is a part of you that lives and breaths cycling. And that's why, if your not riding, you're a disappointment to you and all of your friends. If you're not riding, it means that you don't care, so why should they.

The second funny thing about this whole post is that this word of mouth recommendation isn't. While I stand by my comment that my bike shop is the best bike shop I've dealt with (ever), I'll leave you to guess what shop that I'm talking about. I mean, if my bike shop were suddenly flooded with goomers, my stuff might never get done. Can you imagine how many hours I might have to wait, sitting in the bleacher seats exchanging bike stories if all of you were there too?

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