This year, about 98% of our business will come from customers who buy directly from us online. For a lot of customers, it’s a fairly novel concept – to buy something like a bicycle online and its true, it is a fairly new approach to selling bicycles.
However, it is something that has worked really well for our customers over the years, it offers considerable savings for them, and it’s the direction that the industry is starting to move to.
While we have experimented with brick-and-mortar dealers, we have found more success in selling directly to consumer and augmenting it with the Ambassador network for doing test rides around the country. This has allowed us to keep prices significantly lower and manage the entire sale process inhouse.
How do we address the service aspect?
In order to sell directly to the customer, the first key issue we needed to solve was — how do we provide service to our customers after the sale? Especially with something like electric bicycles which are new to many people, after-sales service is key to happy customers.
We have experimented with a number of strategies in the last few years until we ultimately settled on an approach that seems to be actually quite good:
- When a customer has an issue with a bike that they have purchased from us, they start with a single phone call or email to us where they get connected with one of our service experts.All of their information, including past history, is stored centrally and is accessible by our team instantly. In about 30% of the instances, we are able to troubleshoot and resolve the issue directly on the phone right then and there within a matter of minutes.
- If the issue needs professional attention, our service expert with begin by checking our internal database of independent bike stores in the area that we have worked with in the past. Since we have dealt with thousands of customers all over the country, we have developed a network of dozens and dozens of shops who can handle service for our customers. Once a relationship is formed and the store has proved their capability, we maintain a relationship with them and refer future work to them.
It’s also worth mentioning that we actually also tend to work quite a bit with chain stores, like REI, which are equipped to do full bicycle service. By working with a chain like that, we are able to even further increase our service coverage.
- If we don’t have an existing partner shop conveniently located, we will identify 3 bike shops in the area within a few miles radius of the customer and reach out to them ourselves. During a call, we assess their service capabilities to see if they are able to handle that particular issue.
- Once a store is identified, we will set up an appointment for the customer to drop off the bike there.
At this point, a customer simply needs to bring the bike to the shop at their convenience and leave it there. That’s all.
- Once the bike is at the shop, our assigned service expert will communicate directly with the shop’s mechanic to troubleshoot the problem and guide them through resolving it.
We are able to guide them through procedures over the phone, provide specific videos and written instructions as needed, and express ship them parts.
Once the service issue is resolved, we connect back with our customer and let them know that the bike is ready to be picked up. In a way, this becomes even simpler for the customer as all they have to do is drop off and pick up the bike. We do all of the rest.
- If the shop’s level of service proves to be high, we recruit them as a Service Provider — which means that the next time, for any customers in that area, we will send them directly to the shop. This allows our internal database of Service Providers to grow exponentially every year!
How we make this process even better:
In order for this system to work well, we’ve spent the last few years finetuning the critical pieces:
– Parts – we stock a full inventory of spare parts in our Washington-based warehouse and ship them out express to the shops. That means that they can get the parts they need within a day or two and get the customer riding again quickly.
– Video Library – we are very actively building a comprehensive video library that documents virtually every single procedure possible. Although we may not be physically present at the shop, guiding the mechanic over the phone along with providing them with the video that outlines that exact procedure they are working on is very effective.
– Self Service – for those customers who prefer to handle the issue themselves, we provide them with full support, both in terms of guiding them on the phone, email and via videos, as well as express shipping them any parts that are needed.
Buying online vs. buying offline
We certainly realize that for many of our customers, researching and buying an electric bike can be an overwhelming process – especially since many of them don’t have a lot of physical electric bike stores nearby.
We want to prove that by buying the bike directly from us online, our customers can not just save a significant amount, but also receive very personal, helpful after-sales service – even if we don’t have a physical store right next to them.