I hope that Triumph Australia AND Peter Stevens read this forum. I'm so sick of the pitiful service I received as an owner of 4 different Triumph motorcycles, that I, even without my own ride at the moment, plan never to set foot in a PS dealership again. Well, I tell a lie. I have set foot in a dealership after purchasing one of their bikes. You see, I know their buying power and capacity to carry more sizes and brands than smaller dealer-retailers, so I used them the same way as they used me. I got the brand, model and size of the race suit I wanted, walked into my FRIENDLY local and had them phone the importer and press for a better deal. In the end, I saved enough to get the sleeves shortened to my preferred length AND I avoided buying through Peter Stevens. I'm a fussy customer and I can be hard work - even I know that - buy my money is the same as everyone else and I have a BIG mouth. I'll tell a hundred people if you give me great service and value for money, but if I get shat on, I'll tell 1000... and don't you just love how easy that is these days with the internet!!!
Enjoy OB's latest...
SA, Golden Grove, Wednesday 7th November 2012
Wake up! I’m leaving you! - by Kym Liebig
What’s a bargain? What’s service?
Jesper’s writings always make me think, no doubt about it. Sometimes they make me write, too. This is one of those times.
Last weekend Jesper wrote about the The Dangerous World of Discounting, suggesting, in part, that we get the service we pay for. A lot of you got fired up about that. I got pretty fired up about it myself. Because frankly, my own experience with virtually all of the bricks-and-mortar bike stores that I’ve dealt with for many years now is that you get far, far
less than you pay for.
Now I’ll make one thing clear up front. I’ll pay a bit extra for service and convenience. I’d rather drive twenty minutes down the road and buy a part or an accessory over the counter than buy on the net, providing the service is good and I can just hand over my cash and leave with what I need.
Problem is, I can barely remember when last that happened.
In fact my memories of ‘service with a smile’ and parts easily available over the counter take me way, way back to my days growing up in the country. There were two stores that sold bikes in the small country town where I lived as a lad. One sold cars with bikes as a sideline. The other sold only bikes, and backed them up with the sort of service I only wish I could find at a bike store – any bike store – today. Take a guess which one I hung out at? Take a guess which one I chose to deal with when I bought my first ever brand new bike?
When I moved to the city years ago, I imagined that with stiff competition between a dozen or more dealers, the service on offer would be amazing. I was in for a rude shock. As a rule, service was indifferent. Parts? I got to know the term ‘backorder’ very well, and came to understand very quickly that ‘backorder’ might mean at best that the parts would show up in six weeks, or they might not show up at all. Call every week or so to check on progress and you could expect mild annoyance or an angry outburst, depending on who you encountered when you made the call.
And if the parts and accessories situation was bad, buying a used bike was no better. Disinterested sales people would eventually sell you something if you hung around long enough and went to the effort of actually demanding their attention, but once you rode away you were very much on your own. After sales service? After sales what
Therein began some pretty lean motorcycling years for me. I stayed away from dealers and bought my bikes second hand through the Trading Post. I dreaded ever needing parts, and when I had to buy them I resigned myself to a long wait, and got used to waiting for as long as it took. I also learned standard tricks like taking my old bearings in to specialist bearing shops and having them match part numbers for me. Funny how a bearing with the same part number on it as a motorcycle brand name Genuine Part costs about a quarter as much, isn’t it? I got smart, I got resourceful, and survived through my personal equivalent of the Motorcycling Dark Ages.
Then the internets arrived.
Wow. Suddenly the world was my parts supermarket. Availability? Everything. Prices? Astoundingly low. And can someone explain to me how a part ordered online can arrive at my suburban letterbox in less than a fortnight…while a dealer back order generally takes twice that long? I just dabbled with bits and pieces here and there at first, but it didn’t take long before buying online became fairly routine.
Some time down the track it occurred to me that all this competition must have woken up the dealers, surely? And of course, the chance of ‘get it right away’ convenience came up now and then, too, so I visited dealers from time to time, always with the same result. No, we still don’t care. No, as a matter of fact we don’t have that part in stock, and we can’t tell you for sure how long it will take to get in, but you’ll need to pay for it in full before we order it. Why do we only carry the $115 oil nowadays instead of the $88 oil? It just works better for us that way. Why don’t we have a stockholding of common parts? Because to serve our customers better, we carry many brands of motorcycle, and to keep any amount of parts on hand makes warehousing impractical.
Good grief. So I continued my online dealings.
A few years ago I was given the opportunity to step into the boots of a bona fide Preferred Customer when I bought a brand new Triumph Daytona 675. Well, my wife bought it for me…long story, but there you go. I was ready for the full red carpet treatment, and at the signing of the papers and the handover of the bike, the dealer’s sales guy was all over me and couldn’t help enough. What a discerning choice, sir. A European performance bike, that really sets you apart as a man of taste, sir. Sign here please, sir…
I arrived home on the bike to find that both rear indicators were hanging by the wires – they’d not been properly fastened in pre-delivery. Hmmm. Okay. I can fix that, no biggie. Time for a thorough look over this new beast and…hang on…is that really oil on the sump? A careful inspection traced the source of the leak to where the neck of the coolant pump exited the engine cases.
I made a phone call to the dealer only to be told that the oil was just engine assembly oil. I insisted that it was a leak, and that I had traced the source. No sir, we assure you it’s just assembly oil. It was nice that they took the time to include a definite tone that implied I had no idea what I was talking about.
Of course the leak continued. I took the brand new bike in to the dealer workshop to be told that the problem was the sump gasket, which I insisted it wasn’t. The bike was with them for a full week while they replaced the sump gasket, (they didn’t have a sump gasket in stock…) so that I could ride it home, call them and tell them that my new bike was still leaking oil. You know, from the place it had always
been leaking oil. It became pure comedy in the end, right down to my sending the dealer’s workshop forum links to demonstrate how to remove the coolant pump and fit a new o-ring without splitting the cases. They honestly had not the faintest idea.
With a decidedly bad taste in my mouth, I felt it was high time I saw some benefits from this purchase, so I set about taking advantage of the ‘generous’ 10% discount new bike buyers are offered on their first riding gear purchase by this particular dealership. I needed a new one-piece leather suit, after all. That’s a pretty decent spend. I went upstairs to the gear showroom and spent 20 minutes making it very obvious that I was sorting through racks of expensive leather suits, while three sales staff joked and chatted at a nearby desk. None of them approached me or even looked at me. When I finally fronted one of the staff for some help, he actually rolled his eyes at the other two, then gave me a minute or two of grudging, condescending attention before excusing himself. Furious, I wrote my sizing details on the back of my hand, went home and bought the same suit online for $300 less, delivered. After all the crap I’d been through, that felt like a real victory. I’ve never set foot in that showroom since. I even carried out all my own mechanical work on my Triumph, rather than leave it parked in the dealer’s workshop to be ignored my their mechanics for days at a time.
That’s not much of a case for service as supplied by bricks-and-mortar retailers then, is it? Mind you, you can’t possibly expect anything that qualifies as service from an online
seller now, can you?
In my experience, you most definitely can, if you just use a bit of common sense.
My race bike was purchased online, and has been modified and improved very nearly 100% through parts purchases made online. But I didn’t set about online purchasing in order to simply save a buck. I actually made the decision to go this way so that I could save time and get some decent service. Nowadays I’d much rather order parts online and wait a week or two for my order than call or visit local dealers only to get no service, and no straight answers. By contrast, my online orders and enquiries are almost without exception answered with polite, informative emails composed by people who know what they’re talking about, and are eager to help. They communicate clearly, and do all they can to answer my questions and help with any concerns they have. I’d even go so far as to say I’ve built up a relationship with more than a few online retailers that I use regularly.
Yet as far as bike stores go, I reckon there are plenty of people out there whose experience very likely parallels mine. We didn’t abandon local bike dealers to save a dollar – an abject lack of service drove us to look for an alternative.
It’s a sad indictment on bike shops that customers today are often able to find better service online than many stores are able to deliver face-to-face. How is that even possible? Meanwhile online, the icing on the cake for bike owners is that internet store prices are generally lower, too. I’ve found almost without exception that whether shopping online either locally (there are some great local online retailers…) or overseas, both service and
price beat the pants off what’s available from traditional shops.
In his recent article, Jesper asked “are you the perpetual bargain hunter, or do you value relationships, service and the health of the industry?”
I can say for myself that bargain hunting was never my first priority. I started out seeking a relationship, and service, too. I think everyone yearns for the satisfaction that comes from a great relationship, be it personal or business. But the great majority of bike stores I’ve dealt with have never placed any value whatsoever on my custom. They don’t want a relationship, they just want me to hand over my cash and get out of their faces. It’s simply not a fait accompli that face-to-face dealings guarantee better service – they absolutely do not, and they haven’t for a long time now, even prior to the rise of the internet.
Monopolies have a lot to answer for. In too many cases, if you need a part for a certain brand of bike and you want to shop locally, there’s only one choice. Many dealers seem to think that this gives them permission to treat their customers with something close to disdain. After all, where else are we going to go?
Well, now at last they have an answer to that question.
The industry is changing fast. The smart thing for dealers to do would be to lift their game and step up to a new level of service. It’s too late for them to win back some of us, but of course they still stand a chance with riders who don’t care to identify and order parts online, or carry out their own maintenance. Maybe the dealers can salvage something and retain some of these people. Maybe that’s what the future will look like – dealerships that sell and service new bikes for people who simply aren’t the ‘do it yourself’ type. Perhaps the spare parts counter and the accessory showroom are set to go the way of the dodo. And there are dealerships that will no doubt become extinct, too.
But I won’t be copping the blame. I didn’t set out to screw down prices. I just wanted some service. When someone is rude to me, I don’t put in a lot of overtime complaining - I simply walk away.
Are my expectations of service too high? No, they’re not. If I want service, I can walk into an electrical retailer or a department store, and I get service. There are some industries that still ‘get it’, thank goodness. And if I want to see what service from a motorcycle dealer looks like, all I need to do is take a drive back to the country town where I grew up, and walk into the showroom of the dealer who was there when I was a kid, and is still there today, with good reason. Five minutes spent watching that team deal with customers face-to-face or on the phone is all I need to convince myself that here and there, customer service is still alive in motorcycle dealerships. It isn’t ‘old-fashioned’. It’s just right
And that brings me to my point. My own bike store experience, and that of my riding peers, has been pretty dismal. But there must, surely, be some good news and some great service stories out there?
I’m genuinely interested to hear from riders who have had a good experience, or even better, who have a great relationship
with their bike store. If what you get from your dealer is great service, a friendly attitude, real help and decent value, I reckon that we probably all
want to know about it. So click on our Facebook page
– and let us know. As a community, Motobuzz people can compare notes and help each other by pointing out those dealers who are still getting it right.
Please tell me there are still some good ones out there!
Yours in the search for service