How Liberty Bicycles uses texting to keep up with demand and delight customers

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Learning to ride a bike is a joyful milestone in a child’s life, and an equally meaningful one for a parent teaching their child to ride. For Sam White, general manager of Liberty Bicycles in Asheville, North Carolina, sharing the joy of cycling has been a part of his life for decades. Their business has been around since 1980, and Sam has been with Liberty since 1989. Cycling is truly his passion—he can’t see himself doing anything else.


Liberty offers a lot to the cycling community. “We sell to everyone—everything from family [bikes] to premium, elite-level products that customers drive in from significant distances to buy from us,” says Sam. And their years of expertise and customer service have made them a real destination, a place that manufacturers along the East Coast refer people to for full fitting services, suspension rebuilds, and their excellent service department.


The Challenge


Managing a business like Liberty Bicycles also means providing customers with convenience in how they communicate. For Liberty, that meant examining their current workflow and finding ways to improve—and save themselves from the headaches of dealing with the phones. “One of the big problems we were trying to solve is that last summer before we went to Podium, the phone rang incessantly. Last July, our phone system broke, and we were down a day without phones. Customers couldn’t get in touch with us other than email, or if they had our cell phone numbers they could text us.” But, obviously, giving out a personal cell phone number isn’t ideal. Their system wasn’t fitting their needs or their customers’ needs.


“It started with [asking] ‘can we take some of these phone calls that are coming in and filter them through a tool that gives us the ability to answer questions quicker on the fly?’ Something where somebody can go, ‘Hey you do have this part in stock?’ We can look it up real quick and answer in four or five words, rather than when you get on the phone it ends up being, you know, sometimes a 10 minute conversation,” says Sam.


This problem (as well as the challenges brought on by the pandemic) exposed an opportunity for Liberty, and they jumped at the chance to upgrade. Now, they offer texting as a communication method and it frees them up to get off the phones and focus on other important work.


The Solution


Being able to communicate conveniently has made all the difference. “That’s how we originally got started [with Podium],” said Sam, “as a tool to free up more time for an already intensely busy sales staff. We still needed to answer those questions in a timely manner, but also not feeling like you got that pressure that you got to answer that phone by the fourth ring.”


For Sam and his store, the convenience also brought a level of credibility that they weren’t expecting. As an independent bike shop, having texting tools available gives them the ability to provide a modern and sophisticated customer communication method. And it came at a good time, especially now with supply chain issues that can cause concern for customers. “We’re in a different time of retail than we’ve ever been in. With limited availability, customers just want to know that they’ve got something claimed.” Texting with Podium lets Liberty take orders remotely, easing customers’ minds.


Liberty found success with Webchat as well, allowing customers and website visitors to start a text conversation with the store right from their home page—and it immediately turned into a popular option. In just 8 months, Liberty Bicycles has already texted with over 900 customers through Webchat. And that wasn’t the only place Liberty was able to find opportunities, either—their payment processes also had room for upgrade.


Previously, customers would have to get on the phone and read sensitive credit card details out loud, which is a frustrating experience at best, and risky at worst. “Customers were calling from all over the Southeast. We were selling bikes to people four and five hours away because we had the bike in stock and others didn’t. Our only way to claim payment at that point was for them to call us and give us their credit card number over the phone to put a deposit down on the bike and hold it.” But texting gave them a completely new channel for taking deposits—and one that grew quickly. Liberty Bicycles received over $20,000 in reservation deposits via text message in their first 6 weeks with Podium. Customers were thrilled to know they could reserve the bike they wanted, even before visiting the store.


“Initially [texting] was more so we could get the information to the customer quicker, but then we realized real quickly, you know, let’s ask for a deposit. And it worked well. It worked really, really well.” With Podium, they were able to change their remote payment process to be more secure, less tedious, and more convenient for their customers. Now, they can send a payment request over text and can get paid in seconds. “We’re not sitting here having to worry about somebody calling out a credit card number over the phone jotting it down on a piece of paper—it’s safer, you know. It’s a more secure way of doing that, and we also get charged a lower fee with Podium than if we do a keyed-in transaction.”


These systemic improvements have made a real difference in Liberty’s day-to-day. Now they can see each customer’s history at a glance, so they can serve them better. Going back and seeing the history of the texting chain has been great. Customers don’t want to repeat themselves and start a whole conversation over again to a new salesperson you didn’t talk to last time.” And that benefits both sides of the conversation. “In this instance you can have your cake and eat it too… [Texting] is a great thing for the consumer but it also makes our lives easier.”


This focus on improving communication has led to other benefits, as well. Liberty Bicycle’s reviews are climbing as a result of improved customer experience. Their store is now collecting more than a dozen reviews per month, which is 2.5x better than before, improving to a 4.9 star rating on Google.


“The biggest thing about the store is the longevity and the customer service we’ve offered… I think Podium is helping us offer another layer that we haven’t offered before, always looking at new ways to give us new ways to contact customers and make it easier for them.”


And all of this starts from a desire to serve their community and a passion for cycling. Sam related a story of a family who came in recently to buy a bike for their 6-year-old. They had been trying to teach the child to ride a bike for months. Sam went out to the parking lot with the family and together they had the child riding in less than 5 minutes. Sam says, “We just want to get more people riding bicycles. We want people to enjoy that wind in their hair that we all remember when we were kids.”


Key Results:

  • 900 inbound leads via webchat
  • $20K paid via text in the first 6 weeks, $34K total
  • 126 new reviews
  • Reviews per month increased from 4.8 to 12.6
  • 4.9 star rating on Google
  • 106% increase in web traffic

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