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Canada-based Velofix offers mobile bicycle repair services, similar to what we envision for EV World, but specializing in light electric vehicles.
Canada-based Velofix offers mobile bicycle repair services, similar to what we envision for EV World, but specializing in light electric vehicles.

Powerful A.S.S. Can Help Ensure Success

The chairman of the Light Electric Vehicle Association and managing partner of eCycle Electric, a professional consulting firm, Ed Benjamin knows the electric bicycle business inside and out. Besides, he used to also run his own chain of bicycle shops. Since it is my personal goal to someday establish a network of 'clicks and bricks' stores focused on light EVs, from eBikes to electric cargo bikes, I thought it instructive to share this article he sent me over the weekend.

By Ed Benjamin

I hear, nearly every day, that success, or failure, in the retail marketplace depends on after sales
service.

Good after sales service is the ability to meet the customers demands for:

1. Proper assembly and adjustment of the vehicle. This is a particular weakness of internet
based sales, and of many mass merchants.
2. Timely delivery of the vehicle. In some cases actually transporting it to the buyers home or
office rather than requiring the buyer to collect it at the shop.
3. Instruction in the use and maintenance of the vehicle. Answering questions correctly and
quickly.
4. Supplying appropriate accessories. Making helmets, bags, racks, etc. available. And
installing them when needed.
5. Supplying information on regulations, routes, events, clubs.
6. Quick and correct repairs of routine items such as flat tires.
7. Having parts in stock to service the vehicle. Knowing how to service the vehicle.
8. Quick and accurate information on recalls, and quick service on recalls.
9. Quick and accurate repairs under warranty.
10. Honesty in every aspect of service.

These items seem simple. But to do all of them is quite a big effort.

Brick and mortar stores, especially good bicycle shops, already provide this sort of service for human powered bicycles.

However, electric bikes require more knowledge, and even though most of the bicycle parts of an electric bike are the same and can be swapped with normal bicycle parts - the electrical system components of electric bikes are usually not items that a bicycle shop is accustomed to carry in stock.

And the service technicians at at bicycle shop may have limited knowledge, limited experience and no training in how to service an electric bike. For that matter, the salesman at a bicycle shop may have limited ability to explain and instruct the buyer on what the bike is, and how to use it.

This lack of knowledge and experience leads to a lack of confidence in electric bike product. Combined with some bad experiences and many bad stories about the reliability and serviceability of electric bikes, all over the world, this is one of the major points of resistance to electric bikes inside the distribution channel. Dealers do not want to sell something they cannot service.

Consumers do not want to spend thousands on a vehicle that cannot be serviced. Since electric bicycles are the main providers of profit for the Asian and EU bicycle industry at every level, (and they will gain this same status in the USA and most of the world) the demand for good service and trained technicians will eventually result in widespread expertise and equipment to satisfy that demand. That is certain.

How to get to that point, from where we are today?

Today, service is a mixture of these elements:

1. Basic reliability of the vehicle. One of the ways to provide good service is to sell a product that, like a Toyota, simply needs very little after sales attention.
2. Local availability of trained technicians. Usually limited.
3. Local availability of parts. Usually limited.
4. Phone “support”. A phone number answered by a service provider that will try to talk the customer or technician through the problem. Perhaps shipping parts to the store or consumer.
5. Internet “support” consisting of a chat box, or email address, or other way to frustrate a consumer or bike shop technician. Written and phone conversation is not an easy way to transmit technical service.
6. Manuals and videos posted on line. Inconsistently.
7. YouTube videos created by consumers, or hobbyists.

Some ebike companies offer part of this array of services, some rely on only one or two
elements.

But when we ask consumers what they want the answer is pretty clear:

1. Vehicle that never needs service.
2. Local shop that can fix vehicle within minutes or hours Preferably under warranty.

What consumers hate:

1. Not able to reach “help” in a timely manner.
2. Parts that are not available for days or weeks, or maybe never available.
3. Ignorance on the part of the dealer, the technician, or the phone / internet “help”.

So this writer believes that the best solution for the electric bike distribution success is this combination:

A local shop that has trained technicians and parts in stock. Capable of fixing nearly any problem as quickly as my Toyota dealer can fix my car. (Usually 2 hours).

What the dealer needs to be able to provide that level of service:

1. Physical location.
2. Trained staff.
3. Parts in stock.
4. Access to information on line, and if needed, by phone.

One of the advantages that Bosch claimed to have in the earliest days of their foray into electric bike propulsion was that parts would be available through any Bosch outlet, and that the widespread Bosch network would soon have trained and educated technicians to help provide service to dealers and consumers.

That was a very powerful and persuasive claim for the electric bike brand managers. They have experienced years of frustration with service issues. And to their credit, Bosch has strived to do what they promised. (perhaps with varying levels of success)

How can other ebike brands and distributors provide service?

In Europe, AVERE is working in cooperation with TWINN to create widespread technician training programs that will educate the bicycle shop technicians.

In the USA, the Light Electric Vehicle Association is offering 6 sessions, including a ‘train the teacher’ session to create electric bike technicians. www.LEVAssociation.com

A brand or distributor or retailer can send students to these programs. And supporting the expansion of these training programs is in the best interest of the entire industry. The support can be in the form of paying for dealer staff to attend, or by supplying materials, or by helping financially.

In addition to the training, brands and distributors should do all of the following:

1, Post all owners and service manuals on line. Readily accessible to anyone.
2. Post videos of as-many-as-possible repairs. This can range from links to amateur created YouTube videos to professional instructional videos to quick on line help videos shot by the service tech every time he tackles a new problems.
3. Provide a well informed and well trained teacher for the dealers to cover any unique to the brand service issues.
4. Provide quick and correct information via email, text, chat, and phone to support dealer technicians and consumers.
5. Identify and supply commonly used parts. Be sure that dealers and techs can repair bikes in hours. Waiting for parts should be almost unheard of.

One Chinese brand manager put this quite succinctly. He said, in English, with a grin: “We are
successful because we pay attention to, and have a powerful ASS.” As he wrote “After Sales
Service on a white board.

Posted By: Bill Moore [15-Mar-2015]

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