THE CONFLICT FACING THE BIKE WORKSHOP
E-bikes bring a high level of value added into the bicycle trade – and particularly into the workshop. In return, the e-biker expects a service to match. The bike workshop can thus become a mobility service provider – which doesn’t, however, always work out in practice.
The display on the e-bike reports that the annual service is due. Time to quickly arrange an appointment online with the local bike dealer. Early the next day, the doorbell rings as the dealer arrives to pick up the bike. And as a matter of course, there’s a replacement e-bike ready and waiting. During the course of the day, a WhatsApp message arrives to say that unforeseen repairs are necessary – accompanied by photos of the defective parts and a quote for the repair. A digitally stored signature confirms acceptance of the quote, and in the evening the repaired e-bike is back outside the front door. The sum on the invoice is simply settled by the app service provider. A wondrous utopia, just a dream of the future? Certainly not. In fact technically it’s all thoroughly feasible.
For bike workshops this development involves a tremendous change. Gone is the old workshop with its associations of grease and spanners. Due to the digitization demanded by society as a whole and the rise of electric bikes within the industry, entirely new opportunities are emerging in the working routine and the field of service. This demands adaptations in how operations are run, as the workshop is an essential source of revenue for the business. “To improve error analysis and component diagnosis, we are offering our bike dealers a new cloud-based service tool. All the key data for the e-bike together with its service and repair history are stored there, which increases the efficiency in finding errors tremendously”, explains Horst Schuster from the drive manufacturer Brose by way of example, as he then goes onto to talk about the “transparent e-bike”. Experience from the automotive sector plays an important role in developing these kinds of tools.
Customers, in turn, are familiar with this service from the car showroom – and are now keen to see it in the bike business. Yet raising efficiency calls for improvements on different levels such as marketing, organization, equipment and safety. “Most firms can’t cover every eventuality and have weaknesses in certain areas. These weaknesses have to be remedied”, points out Uwe Wöll of the association Verbund Service und Fahrrad (VSF). With its VSF..all-ride, his association has developed a certification system for excellent bike workshops which is continuously adapted to keep pace with current developments. “Arranging an appointment online and a message by text or WhatsApp should actually be standard today”, says Wöll. However, the expert is aware that its absence is not just due to a lack of organization and motivation, but primarily a shortage of staff.
He points out a pick-up and delivery service as a good example here. “Many dealers are already at the limits of their personnel capacity. This quickly raises the question: Who’s going to do that? And if there’s no one available, it doesn’t get done”, claims Wöll. Adding to these drawbacks is the difficult leasing situation in built-up areas, which would make restructuring and expansion of the workshop more difficult. Creative ideas are therefore needed. One example of this is the mobile bike service by LiveCycle. The idea is not in fact new, but the Munich-based company has now managed to expand its repair service to seven major cities within a period of two years. It has its sights fixed not just on private individuals but on companies as well. A mechanic repairs the employees’ bikes directly on site during working hours. A concept with a future? Wöll is sceptical: “The mobile services give the impression of extensive service coverage, but in reality only operate in the lucrative cities.” And that’s where there’s already a wide dealer network. Yet the provision of mobility services is particularly needed in rural areas if a change in transport patterns is to come about. And this is where more and more long-established bike dealers are closing due to a lack of successors. No app can solve this problem.