Dealer to Dealer: Jan/Feb 2018


Asking the Right Interview Questions

What are your favorite/best performing interview questions? I’m about to conduct a new slate of interviews, and I’d like to hone my process. I’d toss out my favorites, but I’m a terrible interviewer...
–Wesley Best, East Coasters Bike Shops, Roanoke and Blacksburg, Virginia

1. Name one trait you got from each parent that influences how you live your life.

2. Tell us of one specific negative retail experience you had that caused you to vow never to do business with that store again. What might have happened following that experience that could have changed your vow to not revisit the store?

3. Tell us of one specific positive retail experience that so impressed you that you’ve told others about the experience.

4. Tell us about a significant purchase you’ve made where you spent double or more than your initial expected investment. What caused you to ‘up’ your budget?

5. Can you think of an item you purchased thinking you would use frequently but actually only used a couple of times? What caused you to lose interest in the investment?

6. Talk to us about the bicycles you’ve owned—all of them.

7. Describe any special memories you have from your earlier cycling years.

8. How much do you think this pencil weighs? (If they answer in grams, the interview is over.)

What I like about these questions is that no candidate is ever prepared to hear them. That element of surprise gives good insight into how well they think on their feet, and shines light on their values.
–James Moore, Moore’s Bicycle Shop, Hattiesburg, Mississippi


How Do You Handle Negative Online Reviews?

My market hasn’t adopted Yelp, really, but Google and Facebook ratings seem to be of some importance. In the past, I’ve considered charging extra—or even refusing services to—online reviewers based on their public ratings of my business. So, if a person gives me a poor review and then shows up for service afterwards, my shop would charge him/her a higher rate, and provide the service level that they apparently expected based on their rating. Or, if the rating was poor enough or the public comment too brutal, flat out refuse that reviewer/customer.  

Then I realized how awful that sounded, so I started thinking about what I can learn from the reviewer. Should I invite the negative reviewer into my store, and win them over with fake levels of service (BIG discounts, a beer, a coffee, free service on their bike or such)? All so I can “learn something” from them?

Then I finally decided that the opinions of The Mob of Yelp/Facebook/Google reviewers—many of whom have no personal experience with my business—isn’t what I should be basing my decisions around. Yes, these sites allow customers to air their personal feelings about, opinions of and grievances against any business, but let’s also remember that each reviewer is only one person whose opinion should only carry weight if they’re speaking from personal experience and are being factual rather than emotional.
–Joe Elam, Habersham Bicycles, Alto and Gainesville, Georgia

I think most Yelp users are smart enough to know that you can't please everyone all the time. Luckily, most negative reviews are written in anger, and they really come off that way when you read them, and most people can recognize this for what it is. We all have the occasional bad experience, but as long as your bad reviews are offset by good reviews and you're in the 3-4 star area, I think most people can respect that.

The key is to take them for what they're worth. We read all of our reviews, and discuss them with our employees to give them better ways to have handle similar situations in the future. Instead of telling someone, “No we don't loan tools,” our mechanics now say, “If it were my choice, I'd be more than happy to lend you tools, but our insurance is extremely strict about it.” We're not going to please everyone all the time, but we can take something from all the reviews, and learn and grow from them. I often tell my employees that a big part of the job is expectation management.  

Instead of punishing those who leave bad reviews, why not work to offset them with good reviews? Offer an incentive—like a coupon for a free water bottle after they leave a review—for customers to leave reviews. The main thing is to not focus on the reviews themselves, but rather allow them to influence how you focus on your business.
–Jason Woznick, Fair Wheel Bikes, Tucson, Arizona

I think you give both too much, and not enough, credit to The Mob. It truly amazes me how many people come in, saying they read our Yelp reviews and decided they should try us. If you're reasonable with your responses, and you own up to your failures (and there WILL be failures where the reviews are partly, mostly or even totally right), even low reviews can cast a favorable impression of your shop.

The other thing to consider regarding people reading Yelp reviews and responses is that these people aren't just “looking,” but are ready to buy.

Yes, it can be really annoying when you see another shop that's got reviews way out of line with what you perceive to be reality. They could be buying reviews. Or they might just be doing a better job in ways that matter to customers. Let’s face it—if we're in it for ourselves, we’ve got problems. We’ve got to be in it for the customers. The cranky old guy who can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear isn’t going to make it.
–Mike Jacoubowsky, Chain Reaction Bicycles, Redwood City, California

These posts have been edited for clarity and length. The NBDA Dealer Forum is where independent bicycle retailers can share news, opinions and advice about their businesses. It is open exclusively to NBDA dealer members, any of whom may join. To subscribe, go to