Thursday, March 3, 2016

Thoughts about working in a Local Bike Shop

Let’s face it – being laid off kinda totally stinks!  

For the past 2 months I’ve worked on my resume for hours on end.  I’ve searched LinkedIn high and low looking for jobs I’m interested in and qualified for and submitted applications for many of those jobs.  I’ve read books and articles and tried to do whatever I can to keep a positive attitude.  I mean, who wants to hire a negative sour puss?  

No one – that’s who!

I’ve reached a point where I realized that I needed to get out of the house and do some kind of part time work while waiting for my career to get moving again.  In that vein I decided to take a job at my Local Bike Shop (LBS).  Why?  There are several great reasons.

For starters I’m a very strong Extrovert (per my Myers-Briggs type profile – ENFP) and really need to be around people.  Sitting at home by myself 3-4 days a week was driving me a bit wacky.  I was talking to myself more than one should.  Working in the LBS gives me no end of people to talk to.  All the store employees and the owner/manager are great sources of information and friendship.  Additionally, the customers are great!  I last worked in retail about 15 years ago and forgot how much I enjoyed many aspects of this line of work.  From the minute I clock in to the minute I leave I am busily talking to employees and customers and the time flies!

Secondly, a dream of mine is to do some bikepacking or at the very least some very long rides (100 plus miles in one day).  I’ve always been fairly mechanical but there are some mysterious parts to a bicycle and I aim to master the ability to fix anything and everything while on the trail.  My LBS is helping me with that as they have me wrenching on bikes all day long.  I am learning at the feet of several master mechanics.  

Learning AND earning – it can’t get much better than that!

Speaking of earning - while I am extremely fortunate to be receiving severance pay from my previous employer, that pay is taxed at a super high rate.  So making enough money to at least cover the deficit is important. 

Lastly, the LBS has its finger on the pulse of the community and tries to support and inspire the community to take part in cycling.  I’ve shopped the big box stores for bicycles and cycling accessories and the lack of store employees knowledgeable in all things cycling is staggering.  In fact, most times that I’ve ventured out to these stores I’ve never even seen nor heard from a store employee, even after 20 minutes in the cycling department.  My LBS doesn’t hound the customers walking through the door, but every customer is acknowledged quickly.  The employees are always there to assist customers and have a great deal of knowledge and advise to offer.  Every employee in the LBS is likely a cyclist and is there because they have a true love of all things cycling related.   

Now that I have almost one week down in the LBS world, I want to share the thoughts that have been running through my head regarding customer service. 

I’d like to think I was a fairly conscientious customer in the past.  I popped in the my LBS almost weekly for an adjustment or to look at the latest gear or just to discuss riding strategies and riding war stories.  I made friends with the store staff, the mechanics and the manager.  I now realize that the “pop-ins” were not always at the best times.  I popped in at any given moment without considering how busy the LBS might have been.  While they always welcomed me with open arms and never turned me away, I also see I could have been more considerate of their time.  I hope in the future to be a better customer. 

Speaking of customers – I understand completely why the people at the LBS are so accommodating.  They understand that there is no greater commodity than the customers walking through the door.  Every customer interaction has the potential to be a sale not only for that person that walked in the door, but all the potential people that customer might talk too later.  If a customer is treated poorly – they will make sure the world knows about it.  And nowadays with the internet that can be very far reaching.  Additionally, positive interactions can lead to referral business.  Advertising can’t touch the value of word of mouth referrals.  Think about it – ads are impersonal.  On the other hand, if a friend or family member (someone you know and trust) tells you how great a shop or restaurant is, you generally believe it and will probably find yourself following their recommendations to try the shop or restaurant eventually.  If that same person tells you the place is terrible and how horribly they were treated, you will remember that and likely take your business elsewhere.

I think too many employees are too far detached from working with customers.  I think every company from the smallest mom and pop operation to the largest corporation should require all of their employees to spend a day or two every year working in a customer facing capacity.  Nothing would remind employees that customers are of the highest value and the people in the trenches every day serving those customers are to be valued and supported first and foremost.  Additionally, everyone might become a better customer after gaining a new appreciation for those that serve us.  

So please support your Local Bike Shop for all your cycling needs!  You will not find better customer service and will likely find friendships forming.  At an LBS you are way more than just dollars and commissions!