Everyone claims that their service is what differentiates them from their competitors, and we often hear about under-promising and over-delivering in the era of “delighting” our customers. But what about when service breaks down? This is an example of just such a case with our experience at local bike shop.
We know that Covid has placed a strain on bicycle equipment and service. It seemed that in 2020 there were few if any bicycles available and replacement parts were nearly nonexistent. Many shops were swamped with repair work and shop work in our area was often scheduled 2-3 weeks out. It appears that in 2021, we are beginning to see a return to normal to some degree.
My wife is a year-round recreational cyclist who is also a bicycle commuter. She typically rides between 500 and 700 miles a month. We do the normal maintenance on our bikes ourselves, but she was having an issue with her front hub (a SON Dynamo hub), and we figured it was time for a professional tune up.
Our local shop has recently been bought by a large bicycle company, so my wife checked their website to see about their service packages. Looking over the service packages, she decided that a Level 2 at $139.99 plus parts should work for her, but she remained open to any suggestions that the bike mechanic might suggest.
She called for any appointment and was pleased that they would be able to get the work done the following week. She was told that if she brought the bike in on Thursday, they would have the work done by the end of the day on Friday. She was told that when she brought the bike in, they would do a quick inspection to decide what needed to be done and check to make sure they did not need to order any parts. She knew that given the miles she rides she wanted a new chain, cassette and brake pads. She told them she would drop the bike off early on Thursday. She was excited that they could get the work done by Friday night so that she would have her favorite bike for the weekend.
Thursday rolled around and my wife brought the bike for her appointment. Since she had been to the shop during Covid, she knew their procedures for social distancing and masking. Rolling the bike into the store she was approached by a salesperson who asked her what brought her into the store today. (Having worked in bike shops myself that when a customer comes into the shop with a bicycle, they need service.) She explained that she had an appointment for service, and she was told to take it to the service counter, the place she had been heading to when she was intercepted. It was then that she noticed that she was the only customer in the store.
Arriving at the service counter, she waited patiently for one of the service people to check in her bike. The mechanics worked at their bike work stands 10 feet away and in plain view of the counter. After several minutes, one of them eventually looked at her and asked what she wanted. She replied that she was bringing her bike in for her service appointment. The mechanic walked over to begin the process.
After giving the mechanic her name and they found her in their computer system, she was told she was all set and could simply leave the bike. She then asked about the inspection that she was told that they would go through to make any recommendations and to review what parts were needed. She was told that they didn’t have time and they would do the inspection later and call her if there was an issue. She said that would be fine but before she left, she called out the front hub needed service and showed the mechanic the play in the front hub and explained this was the main reason that she brought the bicycle in. The mechanic assured her that it would be taken care of.
When she got home, she told me that she was disappointed by her experience. There was no inspection, no helpful service. It was not like the store was swamped with customers. It was then that we began discussing finding a new bike shop.
Thursday passed into Friday as my wife waited for the call from the shop that they had either completed the inspection and ran into an issue or that her bike service was finished. No call came so she just planned to pick up the bike early on Saturday.
On Saturday morning, she called the shop to see what the status was on the service. She was assured that the bike was in the work stand as they spoke, and they were working to get it done. But that they may not finish it on Saturday; never making any attempt at an apology. That would have given them nearly 8 hours to finish the bike that should have been done on the previous day. They did not offer or even mention that she was eligible for a free loaner bike as described on the website.
Not happy but unwilling to let the news spoiled her day, my wife took one of her other bikes out for a long ride. When she got home at 5, she checked her phone to see if the bike shop had left a message. Nothing. She gave them a call and was told that the bike was nearly finished but they would not have it completed today. Then she asked if she could pick it up on Sunday, she was informed that they shop would be closed for Easter Sunday and that they would call her on Monday when it would be ready. This meant that she would not have her favorite bike for her Sunday afternoon ride and Monday morning ride. And still no mention or offer of a loaner.
Finally, at 4:30 pm, the call we were waiting for came. The bike was ready. They reminded her that she would need to be there no later than 5:45 if she wanted to pick up her bike since they closed at 6. My wife and I walked over to the shop arriving at 5 pm, well before the 5:45 deadline.
I waited in the parking lot while she went in to get her bike. I mentioned that before she left the shop, she should check her front hub to make sure that they had done the work. (For more on the shop experience, read the One & Done post on this site. It gave me something to watch while I waited.)
5:05, 5:10, 5:15. That is when a family arrived to buy a new bike for their daughter and came out moments later saying that they were told by the salesperson that they did not have enough time to shop for a bike. 5:20, 5:25, 5:30. Other customers came and went having picked up their bikes that had been serviced. 5:35, 5:40, 5:45. Finally, my wife came out of the store with her bike with a rather exasperated look on her face.
I asked her what was wrong, and she said that when they rolled the bike out for her saying the work was done, she checked the front hub, and it was still out of adjustment. She told them that they needed to fix it. They suggested that she leave the bike so they could complete the work. Of course, she said no and that they needed to fix the bike while she waited. She pointed out that they had called her saying the work was done, the work that they promised would be done on Friday, three days ago. The mechanic put the bike back in the stand and got to work. 20 minutes later, they gave her the bike once again and she checked the hub.
It was not fixed so she told them to try again. (In case you are wondering if the hub was just old or trash, the SON hub was bought less than a year ago for $350 and was laced into a pair of custom-made wheels.) After another 20 minutes, she again got the bike back and the hub was marginally better but not 100% and she was told that was “the best they could do” and that “if she had any problems, she could bring it back and they would fix it.” After paying the bill that came to nearly $375, she had her bike back.
I asked her if they had made any apologies or offered to adjust her bill, she said no. Amazingly, what bothered her the most was that the bike was no cleaner than when she had dropped it off. As we left the parking lot, we began discussing which different Portland area bike shop would be getting our money and business in the future.
- Everyone was not welcome, and they were not there to help as proclaimed by their website. No one greeted my wife in a friendly manner. They seemed bothered that a customer, a woman in fact, would expect service at the service counter. serve
- The promised inspection at check in did not happen. This was a missed opportunity to ensure that the work could be completed in a prompt fashion and more importantly that a customer’s concerns could be heard and addressed. They also missed the opportunities for an upsell to including hydraulic brake service or added bike accessories. The final bill came close to double the service cost, quite a sticker shock. This shock might have been lessened if costs had been explained during the inspection.
- Deadlines were not met. Again, the website and the service people set the expectations that the work would be done in 24 hour or at least by end of day on Friday. They delivered the bike not in 24, or 48 or even 72 hours. It was delivered after 96 hours. They never mentioned that Easter Sunday may have an impact on service.
- No apologies were made. My wife said she never heard a sincere apology, and no one offered a price adjustment to compensate for the missed deadlines and marginal service. Not only was common courtesy not apparent to my wife the customer, but she also felt at times they were patronizing, condescending and dismissive.
- Work was not completed. The stated deep cleaning on the website was never done and the front hub, the reason for the service in the first place, was never completed to the satisfaction of the customer.
- Failed to instill customer confidence. The shop failed to address the hub during the initial service. Everything cleaned, tensioned, aligned, and adjusted. Later, after they feverishly worked to fix the hub while the customer waited, they failed to complete the work satisfactorily and waved the customer off with a “that’s the best they could do” and that “if she had any problems, she could bring it back and they would fix it.” If you could not do the work even after a greatly extended and numerous attempts, what makes you think that I want to come back?
And bike shops wonder why people buy on-line.