Rethinking Service Models for Business eBikes
With the urgent call for action for climate action solutions across the globe, businesses, governments and many families are all over are starting to turn to eBikes and eCargobikes to replace their cars, delivery vans, or even trucks. Domino’s Pizza recently announced that they would be doing delivery using eBikes from RAD Power Bikes across the United States of America. DHL is testing and rolling out many Velove Cubicycles for delivery purposes, as well as Hermes and DB Schenker. PostNL, UPS, the UK’s Royal Mail, Irish AnPost, and hundreds of other businesses of all sizes are already testing or using cargo bikes from a variety of manufacturers. The industry is growing rapidly and with Climate Emergency Action plans starting to be enacted across North America, there are many more these eBikes and eCargobikes expected to be on the road in coming years. As a point of reference, more eBikes were sold in the Netherlands than regular bicycles last year.
This growth is fantastic and the impact on urban emissions reduction to achieve climate goals will be enormous. The question no one is openly talking about is how do you service these bikes once you sell them to businesses? Do you expect the local bike shops (LBS) to handle all of their needs? at all hours?
I was inspired to write this after having read a recent article I saw on Tesla’s service challenges and customer experiences with their Model 3, and the innovative solutions they have deployed to keep their cars on the road and customers satisfied. Corporate cargo bikes often cost companies greater than $10k upon reaching North American shores to purchase; depending on the bike, some of the repairs can be complex – beyond just a flat or replacement tire or new chain. Without service logistics how do you ensure that these bikes are always ready for operations?
For those unfamiliar with the cycling industry, the primary model for servicing the bicycle you purchase is through the Local Bike Shops (LBS) you purchased it from, with an inventory of parts in shop and access to some slower moving parts through regional or national distributors. This works for a majority of customers and families who may not be putting the wear and tear on a bike that say a business making deliveries, Foodora rider, field service technician, or even the family using the cargo bike as a primary form of transportation would need to keep their vehicle up and running.
Cargo bicycle manufacturers should be looking to other industries for best practices here.
When I was in Europe, there was talk about turning to the automotive industry for the cargo bike service piece. It’s an idea, but I’m pretty confident that that isn’t the best way for us to go. Having come from the Service Logistics industry, I can say that there are plenty of best practices out there and this gap can be resolved. But, it will take a lot of work and forethought by cargo bike manufacturers. The point is: having solution engineered and sold mission-critical logistics services to support manufacturers’ clients needing same-day mission critical repairs and/or replacement, there are plenty of solutions.
We can and must do this, and in a sustainable way.
eBike and eCargoBike manufacturers selling to business customers, have you considered the following questions?
• Have you designed your vehicle for service?
• Do you sell direct to businesses?
• What is your average closure time on a support case? Do you have a KPI?
• How do you ensure that customers using your products will be able to operate 24/7?
• What will it cost to maintain the cargo bike you’ve developed over its lifetime? For you? For your customer? How and at what point do you draw the line?
• How do you handle service calls today? Is it efficient? What is the quality of service?
• Do the mechanics in the field working on your vehicle know it well? How are they trained? Are they aware of product changes? Recalls?
•Do you know that there is a sustainable way to build a service model for your business?
• What kind of customer experience do you want with your brand?
• How important is your support brand image to you?
The systems and scaling go well beyond a Zendesk front-end solution for your customer service agent(s).
Instead, this is a key part of product sales that will ensure this fast moving industry will stay afloat. If manufacturers are not looking to analyze, hire, invest and develop these programs and systems now for their B2B and B2G customers, we risk less growth in this critical sector for eBikes and eCargobikes.
We as an industry trying to replace delivery vans and personal vehicles for urban freight, cannot afford to fail or struggle with this in this time of Climate Emergency.
How did you answer those questions above?
About the author: Sam Starr runs Critical Mobility, a sustainable urban mobility and freight consulting firm with a focus on cycle logistics and bikes, based in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Sam comes from over a decade of experience in logistics and supply chain, and expertise engineering and implementing sustainable programs, systems, and service supply chain solutions.