BikeBiz's man of mystery mulls over the most common retail turn offs

Comment: Mystery Shopper’s attempt at bike sales

I received a bit of junk mail late last month titled ‘The psychology of customer service’. The strap line lead with “The customer is king, or queen, we just have to know how to make them feel that this is true – a must for all businesses today”.

Now we all know that customers are a funny bunch. Though I’ve not worked in bike retail, I’ve done time behind a bar and if you thought your store attracted some weird ones, try managing their needs after two bottles of house red. I do sympathise, though. Years of moderating the BikeBiz trade forum tells me that customers range from those with a brief of “I want a green one,” through “I want a ‘Weather People’ BMX.” Then there’s those pesky Mystery Shoppers coming in and leading you to believe someone might actually buy something and not complain about the price.

On that note, with the assistance of BikeBiz’s Mystery Shopper I’ve had a look over some back issues to see if I can nail exactly what’s expected of the modern retailer, should you feel like pandering to the ‘customer is king’ ethos.

First impressions are obviously important. Be it the presentation of the store – and believe me, there are still some direly underkept shops out there – or the time it takes to be met by a sales representative.

Finding out the intended use of a bike, budget available and whether the customer has access to a cycle to work programme are a good start, but in between those things it’s hard to maintain a new customer’s attention span if your pitch is filled with jargon. Gauging a customer’s enthusiasm for cycling dictates whether you let the technical stuff creep in.

Mystery Shopper reports instances all too often where awkward silences prompt nothing but the desire to leave. Interact, ask questions about prior cycling experience, build a bond that if nothing else will cause the customer to speak of you positively in future.

Our incognito spy also often talks of the ease at which sizing information is given up. Instead of guessing “you’re about a 56,” let them sling a leg over a bike of roughly the right size and recommend a proper fitting when they return to buy. Again, even if you don’t achieve a sale on the day, you provide no incentive for the customer to leave equipped with the tools to buy online. Furthermore, they may now have an emotional attachment to the bike in your store.

Finally, and I’m shooting Mystery Shopper in the foot here, if they’re still interested, ask “would you like to secure this bike with a deposit?” Job done.

(BikeBiz welcomes any other tips, or sales strategies of your own in the comments below)

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