While the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the world and the e-bike industry with it, the pandemic has also led to a huge increase in e-bike sales.
Almost every company that offered e-bikes soon found itself with empty shelves and warehouses.
Between people who are at home with more free time, cyclists coming out of lockdowns and craving more time outdoors, and commuters looking for socially distanced ways to get to work while by avoiding public transport, e-bike sales have never been higher.
But now it has created a new problem in the industry: supporting all these customers.
Large e-bike companies that number their customer base in the thousands and tens of thousands were already tasked with managing a carefully orchestrated balance of customer service.
But now these systems are past the breaking point, as countless new riders receive bike boxes at their doorsteps, a small part of which inevitably comes with hidden problems.
VanMoof, one of the most visible e-bike companies in recent times thanks to an extensive marketing campaign around its recently released S3 and X3 e-bikes, has acutely experienced this phenomenon.
VanMoof’s flashy advertisements on various social media platforms are often followed by a litany of public comments complaining about customer support, or the egregious lack thereof.
And while that’s surely only a small portion of its customer base, VanMoof saw sales more than double almost overnight, meaning even a small number of complaints were bound to increase as well.
As co-founder Ties Carlier explained to The Verge,
“There is a lot of frustration, I know. Even if this is only a few percent of buyers, it is still far too many. We calculated around 1% – 1 in 100 bikes in the first week or so would have something big enough for a customer to call us. But it turns out to be closer to 10%.
Our next frontier is to transform our business by creating a complete support ecosystem around every rider.
And VanMoof isn’t alone, of course. Everyone was forced to up their game.
Rad Power Bikes, the largest e-bike company in the United States, began increasing the size of its customer support team once the e-bike shopping boom began.
Founder Mike Radenbaugh explained during a call with Electrek several months ago, in the early days of the pandemic:
“We’re already hiring like crazy, our customer support team is about 40 or 50 people right now, I’m not even sure. It’s hard to keep track. We should be up to about 70 in the next month .
The increase in customer service at Rad Power Bikes came at a key time, as the company capitalized on the e-bike boom by launching a popular new $1,099 model known as the RadMission.
Other e-bike companies have found themselves in a similar boat.
Lectric Ebikes launched the $899 Lectric XP just over a year ago, which became one of the biggest runaway hits of 2019. During the 2020 e-bike buying frenzy, Lectric Ebikes has released a follow up in the form of the Lectric XP Step-Thru.
Anticipating the huge increase in customer support needed during the punch of the COVID-based shopping spree and new product launch, Lectric Bikes has begun to augment its customer service team.
The startup has also hired an operations manager to bring in outside expertise and experience, helping to further improve the business and customer support system amid a massive e-bike run across the country.
As co-founder Levi Conlow explained during a call with Electrek:
The arrival of our new director of operations has been a huge advantage. She is obsessed with performance and details. We first told him about our competitors and how they can have wait times of days for emails and wait times of hours for calls, and how we thought we were doing well since we had phone wait times of around 20 minutes and maybe up to a day for emails. But she came in and said, ‘No, I don’t.’ She wanted those numbers to be reduced to 97% of phone calls answered in less than a minute and emails to be treated more like a customer chat with quick responses. She wanted us to become the most available e-bike company. And someone with that kind of vision, it inspired all of us to support him. And now I’m sure I can say we have some of the best, if not THE best customer support in the industry right now.
Do physical e-bike stores have an advantage?
While direct-to-consumer e-bike companies are extremely popular in the United States, ordering an e-bike over the internet isn’t for everyone.
Companies with retail presences may have a service advantage. Pedego operates an extensive network of over 120 outlets where customers can not only test drive and purchase a bike, but also return for service.
In fact, I was just at the Pedego store in Fort Myers, Florida (below) earlier today to test out the new $1,499 Pedego Element e-bike for an upcoming review, and saw their first-hand service center. The ability to service e-bikes on-site instead of requiring customers to wait for phone or email support and then wait longer for a replacement part to be mailed in and replaced by the end user may be appealing enough to convince many new cyclists.
Needless to say, the e-bike industry has come under pressure from the growing demand for e-bikes.
It is inevitable that some customers will unfortunately run into problems, but the industry as a whole seems to be well on its way to improving service across the board.
And you can be sure that any company that doesn’t pick up the slack will quickly find itself shamed in countless comments and threads on social media.
Now we want to hear from you! Have you had any recent experiences, good or bad, with customer service from an e-bike company? Let us know in the comment section below!
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