Bicycle repair shops need to become a lot more professional when it comes to service quality. This is the gist of random undercover tests conducted by TÜV Rheinland.

Quality of service at bicycle repair shops shows ample room for improvement

First, the good news: no matter what bicycle repair shops do when it comes to service, most of them will definitely improve. That was my main takeaway after conducting undercover spot checks at eight bicycle repair shops across Germany. To carry out the test, I and several colleagues first added specific faults to different models of bicycle, from simple city bikes to highly sophisticated e-bikes. We then booked the bicycles in for inspections at bicycle repair shops – or at least tried to – and took them in for service. Our aim was to find out more about the service and technical quality of the inspections carried out by repair shops in the fast-growing bicycle market.

With many years of experience conducting undercover tests at car repair shops, we were excited to see how their bicycle counterparts would fare. What standard of service would they provide? How have they organized their workflows? Would they make use of the many customer loyalty opportunities that these inspections create? Unfortunately, the results painted a sobering picture. Although our sample was only small, and there are undoubtedly bicycle dealers somewhere who do almost everything right when it comes to servicing, we certainly didn’t come across any of them.

A customer-focused business? Not in the slightest!

Our difficulties began when we called the repair shops to book appointments. The “highlight” of this stage of the process was our futile attempt to book a bicycle in at one repair shop that we tried to contact without success on three separate occasions. Yet even when we managed to get through, the quality of service was often lacking. Several of the repair shops failed to ask us for our contact details, the bike’s manufacturer or information about its motor or power unit. We usually had to ask to find out how long the inspection would take and how much it would cost. We were never reminded to bring our service records with us, which really should have been a matter of course. What’s more, we were generally not asked whether we needed a replacement vehicle while the service was being carried out, something that is very important for frequent bike users and commuters.

Inspection shortcomings pose safety risk

Among the issues we noticed when picking up the bicycles was the fact that the repair shops missed even the simplest opportunities to foster customer loyalty or encourage us to purchase additional products and services. For example, although we were notified if a bicycle’s chain was not sufficiently lubricated, we weren’t offered any chain grease to remedy the situation. There are many other examples I could cite here, but even more troubling to me than the lack of services offered was the poor technical quality of the inspections themselves. After all, defects in this area jeopardize the safety of cyclists and other road users. We added three technical faults to each bicycle, all of them designed to be identified as part of a standard service, such as low tire pressure or a broken light.

Worryingly:

The repair shops only rectified an average of two out of three.
Although we only checked a small number of workshops, we came to the conclusion that the cycling industry urgently needs to invest in service quality, particularly in light of the e-bike boom. Rising bicycle prices and the increasingly complex maintenance required for electrical components are placing entirely new service demands on repair shops. Structural changes will be essential if the bicycle industry wants to not only sell bikes but retain its customers in the long term, too.

Author

Maro Hartberger

Maro Hartberger

Head of Automotive Solutions & Workshop Quality

Maro Hartberger is the Head of Automotive Solutions & Workshop Quality at TÜV Rheinland Kraftfahrt GmbH / Mobility. With more than 20 years of industry experience, he works with his team to inspect and advise vehicle manufacturers, workshop programs, car dealership groups and repair shops. In response to the question: “Why not adapt services from the automotive industry to serve the mobility sector?” he and his team look for potential in areas away from the mainstream. The father of two enjoys tinkering with cars and bikes in his spare time.

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