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Technology company Hubtiger is helping bike stores elevate and modernise the administration of their workshops to a standard that matches the rest of their operation.
Its ground-breaking online business management software, finally providing a solution designed specifically for bike shops, is quickly developing a following in Australasia.
A total of 120 bike stores in Australia and NZ are enjoying significant time-savings and improved customer relationships by using Hubtiger – all signing to the service during the past 15 months.
Hubtiger co-founder and CEO Stuart Blyth said while rapidly advancing technology is bringing staggering improvements in bicycles and cycling equipment, many stores were persevering with pen and paper for their day-to-day administration.
The company was launched in Johannesburg in 2018 after Stuart’s experiences as a bike shop customer identified a need for asoftware solution to bring bike retailers up to a level comparable to most other industries around the world.
“Automated communication has brought the greatest time savings for stores”
“I was going into stores and they were still writing everything down on paper. They were selling these beautiful, premium bikes, but recording all their services on paper,” according to Stuart, who came from an IT and business management background.
“They couldn’t tell customers their servicing history and they were taking their bookings over the phone or by email. It was inefficient, especially on a busy Saturday morning when there’s five customers waiting in line, or somebody can’t read someone else’s handwriting.
“The customer service was poor. People were coming in with incredible bikes and expecting the customer experience to match, and it just didn’t, even though the staff were trying their best.
“These stores were completely disorganised and I was used to other industries just pushing tech. You have Uber and Uber Eats at the forefront of changing industries, you can even order your groceries online, and I thought there’s this massive gap in the bike industry.
“I started talking to bike shops and to cyclists, then I went to London to see if the problem existed there and realised it was a global problem.”
He said the more tech-savvy operators were trying to adapt generic software which was more suited to hair salons than the particular workings of bike shops.
So Stuart teamed with two talented software developers, Jonathan Jardim and Michael Kumm, to design a bike industry-specific solution. It took around eight months to develop a product they were happy to show to a couple of Johannesburg bike stores, and their response convinced Stuart, Michael and Jonathan they were onto something.
Hubtiger is now used in around 300 stores in 15 countries, including the US, UK, Spain, South Africa, Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands.
Streamlined From Start to Finish
It streamlines the administration of bike servicing – from booking, through the whole process to payments – reminds owners when a bike is due for servicing, allows shop staff to quickly retrieve a customer’s full service history and enables stores to communicate more quickly and conveniently with customers.
“We have retailers telling us they are spending 50% less time on the phone since they started to use Hubtiger,” he said.
“Customers now have an omnichannel choice between online, app or the traditional methods of booking a service.
“The system also sends them an invoice at the end, so they know what they’re paying before they come in the store. It avoids surprises and builds greater transparency and trust between the shop and customer.
“Mechanics can also use Hubtiger to send an itemised list of suggested parts for a service, which the customer can access when they’re available and simply check the items they want.
“It saves the store having to phone the customers, who might be difficult to reach because they’re in meetings all day.”
“Life saver” and “wish I’d introduced it sooner” are regular responses from Hubtiger clients when they provide feedback to Stuart and the team.
“I had one mechanic who was particularly sceptical to use Hubtiger to start with. But when I spoke to him two months later, he said ‘game changer’ about eight times in 10 minutes.”
Stuart said in addition to massive efficiency gains, Hubtiger was invaluable in fostering positive relationships between bike stores and customers, by increasing awareness of customer history, enabling frequent communications and boosting trust through greater transparency on what servicing has been done and when.
“For example, a shop might tell a customer they need a new chain and the customer’s response is ‘but you only changed it three months ago’. Then they check the records and it was actually 12 months ago and the guy has ridden 10,000 kilometres.
“The Hubtiger app enables customers to check their service history. It tracks how long it has been since their last service and, by integrating the app with Strava, how far they have ridden since the previous service.
“Retailers are telling us that customers are getting their bikes serviced more regularly because they understand when they should be maintaining their bike”
“Customers will tell the stores they need a new chain because the Hubtiger app notified them. And retailers are telling us that customers are getting their bikes serviced more regularly because they understand when they should be maintaining their bike.
“Part of our business growth has been driven by premium bike manufacturers who are keen to see their retailers using Hubtiger because they can see their bike is being maintained better and their customers’ experience is improved.”
Most of their business expansion has been fuelled by word of mouth, as shop owners tell their peers about the service.
“We’re still a small team of just four people, soon to become five, and we have done virtually no marketing. We’ve been looking at opportunities to raise capital to really expand the business, but in the meantime, testimonials and recommendations have been attracting more stores,” he explained.
Hubtiger works in combination with point-of-sale software, adding the bike shop-specific functionality, to cover a comprehensive range of store activities.
An Evolving Solution
The system has undergone significant evolution as the team works collaboratively with industry members and gain even greater insight into how stores operate and what they need.
“We also have a number of WhatsApp groups with bike stores who have been giving us feedback throughout the journey,” Stuart said.
“The changes enable mechanics to find what they’re after much easier and there are colour-coded schedules to help them more effectively monitor what’s happening with customers.
“In the beginning, we were just aiming the software at workshops. However, when you really go into it, there’s services, bike fittings, warranties and more. They are all different journeys for staff and customers, and you need to cater for them differently.
“The service also now includes 23 communication templates that stores can customise and send to customers as texts or emails – whether it’s updating customers on the progress of their service, parts you might be waiting for or to announce a shop ride.
“This automated communication has brought the greatest time savings for stores.”
New Hubtiger App
Hubtiger will launch a new version of the app in a few weeks, making it much simpler to navigate and find the functions customers are using the most.
“The customer just needs to do an initial integration and Strava will then integrate with Garmin, TomTom and the other alternatives,” he explained.
“The app monitors intervals between services, and distances covered, to remove the guesswork from maintenance and allow owners to look after their bikes in a way they have never been able to.
“At the same time, the app creates a closer connection between the customer and the store.”
Hubtiger recently introduced a bike sales function to assist owners after their purchase and forge an instant relationship with the store.
“In the past, a customer walks into a store, buys a bike and the shop owner kinda hopes they will come back,” Stuart said.
“The journey really just begins with that purchase, especially if they’re a first-time owner because of COVID.
“With Hubtiger, the store sends the new owner a message linking to a webpage with information about their bike. It then books their first service, driving them back into the shop and starting that relationship.”
Hubtiger’s bike store software is available in three levels. The $59 Lite option is designed for sole operators and includes point of sale integration, customer and bike history, unlimited services, users and service reminders, in-app messaging and job card management.
The next level, Professional ($95), accommodates multiple technicians (up to four) and adds bike shop analytics and an online booking widget.
The Premium package ($129) caters for five or more technicians and offers a loyalty scheme for specific point of sale providers.