Wednesday, December 15, 2010

We learn from our customers

I'm not a gear addict. During the innovation avalanches of the 1990s I just waited for the rubble to settle and then learned how to fix all the crap that landed on the pile. I let customer inquiries guide my research. It still seems like the best approach. Whatever someone brings to my attention I judge by the same basic principles.

I really appreciate the enthusiasts who bring us the news. They help gather and filter more results than we could on our own. The ones who actually buy things from us also help us decide what to keep in stock.

In the 1990s the interaction was more hostile. The challenging customer would come in with an attitude, to see if we were hip enough to deserve his business. We still get a little of that, but not for long, because we rapdly fail the hipness test and see them no more. Competition between shops was harsh. Customers played shops against each other. Gossip was rampant. We still gathered intelligence using field operatives and informants, both willing and unwitting. It was simply more defensive. I don't miss that.


kfg said...

If I ask for an EA3 tire and don't get a blank stare in return, the shop is probably hip enough for me.

Big Oak said...

I imagine it must be a difficult balance to strike. I am turned off by "hip" shops that are interested in trying to sell me expensive, ultra light racing crap that I don't want. But I know a lot of people want that stuff.

What I like are bike folk who are interested in helping me figure out what I need, even if I don't know what it is when I walk in the door.

I think you have an attitude that serves everyone (by listening), and can make the shop enough money to compete. In the end, if you serve your customers well, they'll come back in again, many with friends.