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Fred Clements: A good bike shop report card

Published October 7, 2013
A blog by NBDA executive director Fred Clements

Editor's note: This blog post was written by Fred Clements, executive director of the National Bicycle Dealers Association. Clements' previous blogs can be read on bikedealerblog.wordpress.com.

Sometimes the Internet seems like a vast global Complaint Department and bike shops receive plenty of bashing for real or perceived failings.

There is another side to the story though. There is great retailing out there and the best bike shops are creating happy and satisfied customers every day. This represents a powerful counterpoint to tales of disappointment and woe from your nearby www.

The NBDA sent mystery shoppers to 256 independent bike shops nationwide to report on their experiences as customers. The stores were unquestionably better-than-averageMore...because they had each volunteered to be evaluated for NBDA's America's Best Bike Shops program. What emerged from these many visits was a picture of pretty good retailing in a lot of stores, yet certainly room for improvement.

The shopping process was managed by The Brandt Group, a professional mystery shopping firm (www.thebrandtgroup.com). The shoppers reviewed store websites, phone etiquette, store appearance and salesmanship. They completed multi-page forms that prompt detailed analysis, and provided specific feedback from a customer point-of-view.

Some highlights:

Website: 86 percent reported that the store's website was helpful in shopping for a bike. 83 percent responded it was easy to send an email for more information from the website.

Email responses: A solid 69 percent said an email response was helpful or addressed the question they had asked. Missed opportunities: only 46 percent of the responses invited customers to the store and only 15 percent contained promotional information or an offer.

Email response times: 32 percent of the stores responded to e-mail inquiries within two hours, an excellent response time. 14 percent responded within two to four hours, 7 percent within 12-24 hours and 7 percent within 24-48 hours. Missed opportunity: The shorter response time the better. 30 percent of the shoppers never received an e-mail response.

Telephone: 98 percent said the telephone greeting was warm and the person had product knowledge and provided good information. Missed opportunities: 17 percent of the phone answerers didn't identify who they were. 33 percent did not ask for permission if they needed to be placed on hold.

Visual appearance: Most of the stores (98 percent ) were clean, well organized, and had interesting visual presentation. They also had good pricing and signage (92 percent ). Other plusses: Community riding events were posted in 82 percent of the stores, and group rides were posted in 80 percent . 85 percent of the shoppers said the background music was acceptable. Missed opportunity: music that appeals to customers, not just to staff.

Greeting: 82 percent of the time a greeting occurred in one minute or less and 91 percent of the time in less than 5 minutes. 96 percent of the time the staff was responsive and made good eye contact. Missed opportunity: Name tags were worn at only 20 percent of the locations. The Brandt Group suggests name tags because it's easy for a customer to forget a name, even if staff members introduce themselves.

Understanding needs: 94 percent of the associates asked/inquired about the customer needs and 92 percent asked open ended questions. 77 percent of the time the associate demonstrated the product and 90 percent of the time associates discussed multiple options (models or brands). Missed opportunity: An associate suggested add-on merchandise only 56 percent of the time.

Closing the sale: Closing can be a sensitive area for bike stores that don't want to be perceived as pushy. But handled well, asking for the sale benefits both the store and the customer. In The Brandt Group visits, 73 percent of the associates asked for the business, 86 percent reinforced the benefits/value of the product, 85 percent addressed the objections, 76 percent explained the value, quality, warranty and/or service, 79 percent provided alternative choices in merchandise.

Thanking the customer: 96 percent of the time the customer was thanked for coming in, felt welcome and understood.

Next steps for the bike industry? How about an all-out effort to help bike stores across America be as welcoming and professional as these elite performers? How about creating a retail world where everyone is greeted enthusiastically, served well, and cycling participation triples due to retail excellence. Can't happen? Won't happen? Why not?

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