Tech Talk: Out From The Fumes

Sometimes you've got to strut your stuff. Along with selling high-quality products and offering excellent customer service, snowboard shops can increase their backshop sales by exposing their experts a little more. Not only will this help keep these shoppers coming through the doors, it will also expand a shop's existing customer base.

With a little extra effort, backshop employees can put down the P-Tex gun, get out of the fume-infested repair room, and actually meet customers. By doing so, they'll let customers get to know who the true technical experts are in every store.

Providing this higher degree of personalized customer service transforms a backshop tech's day from the otherwise mundane scrape and wax into a more-fulfilling relationship for both himself and the customer.

Grip And Grin In Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Kevin Thompson is head tech and manager at Powder Pursuits. He explains how he and Owner Chris Smith get out from behind the counter and actually initiate some novel conversation with customers:

“I try to qualify the customers when they come in,” says Thompson. “I check out their equipment and talk to them about the type of riding they do.”

Thompson draws this palaver not necessarily to meet new friends, but rather to establish the steps he will take when he places a board on his bench for a tune-up.

Thompson explains how his tunes will vary for beginners, park and pipe riders, racers, and freeriders. He conscientiously alters the edge bevel depending on the rider's style. Beginners receive less bevel and more detuning farther down the edge. Those who strictly ride park and pipe will want more bevel; racers need even more angle to maximize their carves.

Unwrap And Detune These rules apply not only for regular tune-ups, but also for detunes when someone has just purchased a board from your store.

“The worst thing you can do is get on a new board and catch an edge the first day,” says Smith, who opened Powder Pursuits seven years ago.

Some brands take care of this problem before the board even leaves the factory. For example, Burton detunes every board before they even show up in the shop.

During his visit to Burton's factory, Smith says he was impressed with the automated robot that grabbed the boards from the center and detuned the tip and tail. Shop employees mimic this process when they put their own detuning skills to test. “It depends on the kick of the board where you detune it,” he says. “Detune it according to the tail and nose, or wherever the contact point is with the snow.”

But even after the tune is done, Thompson makes sure the customer understands what was done.

“I take the time to explain to customers how we tuned a board and why,” he says. “They appreciate it and it adds value to the tune. I'm not just waxing a board and sending them out the door.”

When treating bases and applying wax, Thompson and Smith use their local knowledge to benefit customers. Temperatures in the Rockies can vary thirty degrees in one day, so the shop usually applies an all-temperature wax. The average rider can then avoid some of the constant changes otherwise necessary to avoid sticking.

Another secret of improved customer service is to look beyond the bottom of a board. “I'll adjust their bindings,” says Thompson. “They might have them mounted backward or with huge toe hang.”

In these instances, Thompson makes sure to remain friendly and non-condescending with the customer. “Explain the problem in a way that doesn't make them feel like a moron,” he says. “Remember, you're not only helping your customer, you're promoting your shop and the entire sport.”

Thompson will add extra services to his basic tunes for the more familiar rriders on the mountain as well: “We'll give it some extra love. One extra reach and twist on the technician's part is a true way not only to one rider's heart, but also the hearts of his or her ten friends.”

Treat every board like it's your own, advises Thompson. “Finding a good tune at a snowboard shop is an exception, not a rule,” he says. “I give a personal guarantee with all repairs. The locals know that I'll back any work I do if there's a problem.”

Special Promos Building trust with their locals has been an important goal at Powder Pursuits. For example, every Wednesday during the season is a locals' day when tunes are half price. “It's more of a service to the rider than a way the shop is trying to maximize profit,” says Smith. “We don't make a lot of money off of it. It's for the customer–to keep the snowboarders snowboarding.”