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Opinion: Follow these simple steps to enhance customer service

Published July 25, 2019

By Diane Jenks

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Jenks is the host and producer of The Outspoken Cyclist podcast, is also the author of The HubBub Guide to Cycling and was a bicycle retailer for more than 40 years. She's allegedly retired from retail but still helps out with bike-fittings and other shop-type things. She's also the maker of the HubBub Helmet Mirror.

I think most bike shops think they offer good — even great — customer service. But, when Bicycling magazine publishes a story by Gloria Liu about bike shops titled, "Hey, Bike Shops: Stop Treating Customers Like Garbage" and then cites its survey that shows 60% of the respondents said they had a "negative experience," maybe it's time to look at your customer service with fresh eyes.

The statistics are even more dismal when 56% of women and 44% of men surveyed said they've stopped going to bike shops all together.

Rather than assume everyone who hires a new employee offers customer-service training, I'll share a short list of how to treat customers and what to say to them. These are simple, easy, and proven guidelines to keeping customers and enhancing your reputation.

  1. Always greet everyone who enters with a smile and an acknowledgment. Even if you are with another customer, just glancing up, smiling, and showing that you know and appreciate their presence makes a huge first impression.
  2. Don't ask a new customer, "Can I help you?" Rather, say something like
, "Thanks for coming in today. My name is (fill-in-the-blank). Let me know if I can be of service," or
 "Is there anything special I can show you today?" Then let the customer answer. If not, don't hover but re-engage periodically.
  3. Always address customers directly. Ask for their name, and look at them when speaking and smile. 
  4. Let the customer talk. Do not interrupt. And, do not talk down to someone or try to show off what you know. Because you are in the shop and are assisting the customer, the assumption is that you already know something.
  5. Be interested in what the customer has to say. Do not try to influence with your ideas. If asked for advice, make sure you understand what your customer needs or wants, as opposed to what you want to sell them.
  6. Give your customer the opportunity to buy. It's a different perspective than "selling." The good, better best principle. Example: Helmet: $40, $65, $100 — explain the choices clearly. Most people will opt for better if they see the value; that's an up-sell.
  7. Always assist your customer. Open and hold doors, offer to get bikes out of the car, wheel bikes to the car. 
  8. Make everyone welcome. Don't be an elitist. Let your customers be ambassadors for your store by showing respect and interest.

None of this is new and nor costs you anything. Not doing these things, however, can cost you customers and your reputation. And, it all starts with the bike shop owner or the manager. Set the example you want your staff to follow. What you do will go a lot further than what you say.

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