MORGAN HILL, CA (BRAIN) — Engadget writer Joshua Fruhlinger went to two Southern California bike shops on Black Friday, shopping for a Specialized or Yeti. After being disappointed by his experience, he wound up buying a Santa Cruz from online retailer Speedgoat.com. (Related: BRAIN's interview with Frulinger)
Fruhlinger did not name the shops or Speedgoat in his column, but in the comments under the column he revealed Speedgoat's name. It was enough to drive some traffic to the site, Speedgoat's Jason Grantz told BRAIN.
"It's been generating increased web and phone traffic for Speedgoat, which has been great," Grantz said. "We pride ourselves for focusing on the customer and their needs regardless of how much they have to spend or what they might ride. Whether you call us or visit us at our Elgin, Illinois, retail location we treat everyone the same and we take our time."
Specialized also touched base with Fruhlinger after the column. The company's Donny Perry reached out to the writer via Twitter.
Perry is global development manager for SBCU, Specialized's retail employee training program. He coordinates training for bike shop employees to avoid just the kind of scenario that Fruhlinger descibed.
Though Fruhlinger already ordered a bike, he's still in the market for shoes, so Perry hoped to help him find some Specialized shoes. "I'm hoping to take him shopping, if he's willing," Perry told BRAIN.
Although Fruhlinger's column at first glance seemed to award a victory to online retailers over brick and mortar, his experiences weren't related to the type of retailer he visited, Perry said.
"It was a service failure," he said. "I know there are brick-and-mortar shops that offer wonderful customer service experiences and there are online retailers who have horrible customer service.
"This was a bad-service experience; it just happens that he had a bad experience at brick-and-mortar stores and a good experience with an online retailer."
Perry said stores need to have "processes in place" to prevent these kinds of experiences.
"Sometimes it can be hard to keep track of the whole staff, and someone can have a bad hair day, someone can say something that is taken the wrong way."
Fruhlinger's specific situation — he'd done his shopping homework online and said he had enough mechanical experience to assemble a new bike — shouldn't have been a challenge to a well-prepared sales crew, Perry said.
"The amount of knowledge that a customer has shouldn't make it more or less difficult to sell. If the sales staff has a process in place, are empathic and listen, it doesn't matter the background of the customer."