VanMoof founders Taco and Ties Carlier discuss the impact of becoming the world’s fastest growing e-bike brand, and share their strategy to overcome the biggest challenges yet.
When we look back on the history of VanMoof, 2020 will be seen as a watershed moment. We launched our most advanced e-bikes ever at our most accessible price yet – and sold more bikes in four months than in the past two years combined. All in the midst of a pandemic which forced everyone on the planet to rethink their ways of living and working.
But all this hypergrowth has come at a cost. The runaway popularity of the new VanMoof S3 & X3 and the widespread impacts of COVID-19 have shone a light on the friction points within VanMoof. Naturally we want every rider to have a perfect VanMoof experience, but this year’s accelerated growth has sat alongside quality control issues, shipping delays, and increased wait times for servicing and customer support.
It’s easy to point the finger at the ‘unprecedented times’ we currently live in. But the simple truth is we weren’t as prepared as we could have been, and we let too many of our riders down. This is extra-painful for us, because we owe our success to the trust and enthusiasm of our community. And it’s time we gave our riders the VanMoof experience they deserve.
Elevating rider experience with $13 million
Maybe you heard already, but VanMoof just secured its biggest financial investment to date, with Norwest Venture Partners, Felix Capital, and Balderton Capital injecting a total of $40 million into the company. Obviously, we’re going to use a portion of this money to continue down the path of bike innovation and international expansion. But we’re also allocating over a third of it to strengthen and grow our customer experience. Moving into 2021 and beyond, we’re committed to making service one of the key pillars of our company ethos and identity, so that every rider gets a best-in-class experience wherever they ride.
We’re in a unique position to do this, because we’re responsible for every aspect of our business. From engineering to manufacturing, from selling to aftercare, it’s all designed and driven by our in-house teams. That means we have the flexibility needed to adapt to issues as soon as they're identified, and rapidly iterate real-world solutions.
At your service
Of course, it’s easy to make grand statements. But what are we actually going to do to put these words into action? Well, in the short term we’re tackling the obvious issues. We’re boosting our production capacity to catch up with the order backlog, with the aim to have all new orders shipped in a matter of weeks (instead of months) before the end of the year.
We know our support team are some of the best in the industry, in terms of the deep care and attention they can provide. But we also know that many riders have experienced extra-long wait times in the past months, which is simply not acceptable. This year has highlighted the need to expand our support facilities, and we’re already welcoming new team members as well as integrating new platforms and technology to give riders the best service possible.
In parallel, we’re now running service-focused initiatives across all VanMoof teams. With new hires, deeper training, and improved tools, we can all collaborate in finding new ways to improve our customer service, while reducing the load on our support agents.
We’re confident that this, combined with our soon-launching support chat platform, will cut email response times down to our original 24 hour guarantee, and remove phone line waiting times altogether. We’re also working on building a smarter, more expansive support portal and integrating it within the VanMoof App – so you’ll always have the best answers, right at your fingertips.
Beyond this, we’re radically revising our maintenance facilities. With our community of riders growing every day – we’ll hit 150,000 before the end of the year – we finally have the scale required to offer the kind of tech-driven bike servicing you really need. As we ship more and more bikes all over the world, we know that a growing number of you will not have access to a VanMoof brand store for Bike Doctor servicing. We’ve already taken the first steps towards remedying that with the launch of Peace of Mind: Maintenance. In this three-year coverage, we’ll proactively invite you to have your bike serviced at distance-determined intervals. We can then fix any wear-and-tear and maintain key hardware components to prolong the life of your bike, as well as identifying serious issues before they escalate further.
More radically, we’re currently working on the introduction of our new Bike Doctor Network, an app-based service where expert-trained Bike Doctors are always available on-demand. And you won’t need to travel or ship your bike to a brand store – the Bike Doctors will come directly to you, whenever you need help with your bike. We’ll be trialing the beta versions of the Bike Doctor Network across Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Berlin in the final quarter of 2020. By the end of 2021, we plan to have a full-scale network in operation across more than 40 global cities. And this isn’t just limited to bike repairs: our remote team members will be able to offer test rides, and even hunt down missing bikes for you. This network allows us to give you a best in-class service experience without opening hundreds of retail locations – and we can then pass the financial and environmental benefits on to you.
This is all a work in progress. But it is really happening, and we know it can’t happen soon enough. We believe that e-bikes have the power and potential to change our cities for the better. That’s why we’re working to make e-bikes as accessible as possible, so we can accelerate the kind of change which is urgently needed. But, at the end of the day, bikes are just tools. It’s the people, the riders, who make a difference. And we’ll have our rider’s backs no matter what happens. That’s a promise.
Five ways we’re improving
- Launching Bike Doctor Network – Introducing mobile Bike Doctors in key cities to better service riders outside of our brand store reach, starting in the end of 2020.
- Improved service UX – Integrating more intuitive support in My VanMoof and the VanMoof app, making it easier to plan check-ups, run diagnostics, and troubleshoot.
- Quality assurance – Drastically improving end-to-end quality control, developing advanced testing equipment and scaling up our quality control teams. We're also increasing the frequency of over-the-air updates to stay ahead of any issues.
- Best-in-class customer support – Improving tools and training to get email response times down to 24 hours, cut phone waiting times, and add new ways to contact us (by improving our online knowledge base, and launching support chat).
- Maintenance services – Transitioning to a more proactive customer experience, introducing new services like Peace of Mind: Maintenance to solve issues before they can affect your ride.