Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Long time subscriber, first time caller

Every day I, like my brethren go to my shop and do my best to try and build bikes that fulfill what the customer asked for. Of course, it is impossible to make everyone happy who comes in your door for your services but we as builders always seem to try, as if we thought it was possible. So why do we do this ? What personality defect makes us so blind to think that we alone are the final destination for this and any customer , regardless of what they want ? Is it the thought that maybe nothing is beyond our capeabilities as builders ? Is it because we are wanting to have a perfect failure-free 100% customer satisfaction record ? I think's probably more the fear of failure on the part of the customer and worse, the success of a competitor with the very same customer. So.....when we do fail and get called into question by the customer , why do we get overly defensive ? Why do we forget that it isn't possible to make everyone happy and to go through life without making a mistake or without occsionally pissing someone off ? Again, I think it goes to the personality type that chooses to do this for a living. I recently had an email exchange with a guy who had dealings with several framebuilders as a customer and on the forums. This guys assesment of framebuilders was that they were premadonnas for the most part and if I had had the same experiences as he, it is likely I would have come tothe same conclusion. That said, some of the builders he referred to are top-notch supreme craftsmen and have built amazing stuff over the years. I guess what I'm puzzled by is why most of us get so incredlbly defensive when someone dosen't find us to be as complete and flawless as we want to be ? How come we can't remember something as simple as " You can't please all the people all the time"? What is it that re-enforces our collective insecurities and unrealistic self images ? Is it the fumes from the flux ? Was it how we were raised ? Is it a part of our makeup that also happens to point us in the direction of building bicycle frames ? It is almost as if some of us-actually a lot of us are like feudal lords in really tiny castles , defending ourselves pathetically-I know, it's real stretch of an image but think of each builder as a separate'Kingdom" with its own philosophy, its own set of ethics that must be defended to the death. Builder "A" had a customer who waited X amount of months for a frame and then declared that it wasn't what he wanted, got a refund and then went to builder "B" and had a positive experience. Builder "A" was of course convinced that this customer was in error and that builder"B" was and is a hack. If it sounds like I have experience with this , I do. I have been both builder 'A" and builder "B". I would like to be neither for the duration of my career and try to keep the neuroses at bay-we all need to in my opinion because if we don't, every one of our customers will be going to the large companies for their see, the large companies don't get into the petty stuff that framebuilders do-they just take your money and that is that.


  1. I work in the service industry as a field tech and I have a saying which I think applies to the framebuilder/customer relationship as well. It is: "Customer service is like a dance, where the customer leads."

    You have a right to build frames according to your philosophy and to refuse customers if their desires don't match that philosophy. That's okay as long as you can afford the loss of business. There are some people that just aren't worth having as customers, as you alluded to in a prior blog post. You just have to remember that you're more than a framebuilder; you're a businessman as well and you need the people skills to either bring customers around to your way of thinking or detect that they're gonna be trouble and politely turn them away. It's the nature of any craftsman-like enterprise.

    It's tough to be flexible and bend to a customer's wants if they contradict yours because you may feel you're compromising yourself. You just have to ask yourself how much you're willing to give in without feeling bad about yourself at the end of the day.

    The reason it's usually easier to get what you want from builder "B" after a bad experience with "A" is you're able to tell builder "B" what "A" did that you didn't like. Now all "B" has to do is focus on not making those mistakes and they're golden.

    You'll probably find that's the case when you start on my order soon!

  2. Let me guess....steel MTB frame with a matching steel fork ?

  3. Yes!

    "Alex- can I have "Customers" for $100, please?"