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Opinion: PBMA's president has a suggestion for increased service department profits

Published April 28, 2017

Editor's note: James Stanfill is president of the Professional Bicycle Mechanics Association. 

We're rolling into peak season. Everyone wants their bicycle tuned up and ready to ride and they want it yesterday. Good news for us: The service departments are humming and the business again seems less gloomy.

What are you missing? After a lot of travel and anonymous stops into shops all around the country I can say that many are missing a lot and very few have it all figured out. If you're not set up to clean a customer's bike during any non-instant service you're losing money. I don't mean your bottle of window cleaner and a crusty rag; I mean a hose, soap, sponge, degreaser and all.

Imagine if you did 100 repairs a week and added $15 to each one.

They say first impressions are everything. I would guess that 80 percent (or more) of customers receiving a clean bicycle back after a repair probably wouldn't even notice if the repair wasn't done. OK, maybe that is a bit exaggerated, but think about it, really.

All right, I can see those brows furrowing and the money spent adding up in your head. ... Here's the secret. At your shop you use lube, rags and all sorts of materials most shops charge nothing for. When you take your car to almost any auto service location (dealer, independent, big or small) you see a disposal fee or some random sort of shop supply charge. So try this. Add a line item to your service POS for "standard shop service charge" (or whatever you want to call it). Make it $10, $15 or even $20 — your service rate and market will determine what is appropriate.

Whoever is writing your service tickets converses with the customer about the repair and the charges and says, "By the way, we now have a standard shop service charge and it is $xx.xx. This covers all your lubes, disposal fees for the materials we use and we clean your bikes." Most consumers already expect something like this because they are accustomed to it from owning a car.

Getting pushback — learn to sell. A clean bicycle that's lubed and regularly taken care of typically requires fewer replacement parts — the chain, cassette and chainrings will last longer. "The whole drivetrain will last longer." That sounds mightily important, expensive and well worth a few more bucks on top of that tuneup.

I might be speaking for myself, but personally I prefer to work on clean things; I'm guessing your mechanics would too. I don't like wearing gloves to protect my sensitive hands from the harsh realities of the real world. In my private life a bicycle doesn't go in my stand unless it has been washed. If I am working at a shop that has the facility (major stuff here – hose, bucket, stand, water, soap, sponge). I just wash it regardless because I don't like working on dirty bikes.

You can't find cracks, failures and sometimes worn-out or unsafe things under dirt!

Let's get back to the basis for the argument of this simple add-on service. If the customer says no, do it anyway. Customer satisfaction and repeat business will go up. People like clean things. When I take my car to the auto dealer for service they wash it. They don't ask. They literally run it through the on-site car wash. They figured this out a long time ago. It's time we start looking at models of success in other industries that can work in ours.

Imagine if you do 100 repairs a week and add $15 to each one. That's some nice additional revenue for your business. Hopefully you can share some of that ongoing growth with your service team.

There are many things we can all do better. This is one simple-to-implement idea to help you grow customer satisfaction and hopefully your bottom line. The five or 10 minutes this takes will outweigh the burden of cost. And what better time of year to implement than right now when it's about to get really busy and people need to have their bicycle back ASAP?

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