Last month we reported on the troubles Bowman Cycles were having fulfilling orders and now Ribble is the latest bike brand to feel the ire of disgruntled customers annoyed by last-minute changes to delivery dates, as highlighted by this recent road.cc forum post.
Factory closures and disruption to the supply chain since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as increased demand, has meant bike companies the world over are struggling to fulfill orders on time. British brands have the extra complication of Brexit to deal with too, but many bike buyers complain that companies leave it too late to tell them about delayed deliveries.
British brand Ribble has responded to criticism about delayed bike deliveries to consumers by saying that when holdups result from UK port and logistics issues it receives communication at "very short notice". Ribble adds that it has been heavily investing in its customer service team, and will continue to, and also highlights that there’s a dedicated section of its website that pulls together its ‘Best Availability’ bikes with the earliest dispatch dates.
We all know that buying a bike is really difficult at the moment, but once you hit ‘buy’ on a brand’s website there’s an expectation of regular customer-service communications and for expected delivery date information, especially on a bike you’ve already paid for. But some of you have said on the road.cc forum that you are experiencing issues with Ribble repeatedly pushing back delivery dates.
Uncertain delivery dates from bike brands are common right now, but many of you have also highlighted a lack of communication regarding the delivery status of bikes.
“Almost everyone in the industry has supply-chain problems, but that's not an excuse for bad customer service,” one reader, bobrayner, commented on the forum thread.
Ribble is among the bike brands struggling to stick to the expected delivery dates given to consumers when they purchase a bike.
road.cc reader JVN01, for example, recently started a forum post about their experiences of multiple last-minute delivery date pushbacks and lack of communication after purchasing a Ribble CGR Pro Ti Di2 bike back in May of this year – and is still bike-less.
In the approach to the first projected delivery date of early October, JVN01 received an apologetic email from Ribble advising that, due to component shortages, the build was being delayed until late October.
JVN01 said: “As late October approached I contacted Ribble via their support chat to confirm my 'new' delivery date shown on my live order tracking status page was still on track. Oh yes, they said, everything is correct with your revised delivery date.
“This was the case right up to 24 hours before the delivery date, at which point it suddenly jumped back to mid-November. The same thing happened again a few weeks later when the promised dispatch date approached and got bumped back to 3rd December.”
Waiting again for 3rd December, JVN01 said: “I contacted Ribble customer chat again who confirmed my order was still on track for 3rd December dispatch... However, just a day before the promised dispatch date it suddenly slipped back to 17th December.”
JVN01’s complaint is regarding the lack of warning about further delays to a customer who has paid for a product.
“The optimistic timescales are one thing - it's the waiting till the day before each dispatch date to bump them down the road each time which gets me - it's obvious Ribble know they can't honour the dispatch date long before it arrives, so they could (should) be honest with their customers who have, in many cases paid upfront in full for their new bike.”
He concluded: “If Ribble are unable/unwilling to predict when a certain bike will actually be available then they should simply remove it from their listings as being available to order.”
Ribble explains that the build date it communicates at the point of order is based on the confirmed purchase order delivery dates given by its component suppliers, plus the bike brand says it adds a significant buffer on top to cover any potential delays.
“However, each of these components is part of a global supply chain that has been under significant pressure and whilst the buffer we put in place results in many customers getting their bike before the communicated date, the current supplier and logistics delays the industry is experiencing are in some cases breaching the buffers we have put in place resulting in build dates slipping," says Ribble's Caroline Joice.
“Further complication is added where these delays are UK port and logistics-based and communication is received at very short notice.”
JVN01 is not the only customer to have spoken out about having such experiences. road.cc reader JP Cycling commented on the forum thread: “I had the same problems with Ribble, constantly pushing back the dates, this coupled with useless customer service made me cancel my order.”
road.cc reader Tom_77 also commented: “'I’m still waiting for my Gravel AL [...], Ribble confirmed my order on the 1st October, was expecting to get it at the start of November. Currently, the Ribble website is showing an estimated dispatch of 17th December 2021.” Although he added in a further comment “ got an email to say my bike has been built and I should have it in 3-5 working days.” It’ll be interesting to hear next week if this has been fulfilled.
“I think the communication from Ribble could be a lot better,” Tom_77 agreed, “ I also feel that they may be being a bit too optimistic when estimating timescale.”
Ribble says it has been growing its Customer Service team over the last 18 months and to make its communication channels more robust it has also been developing its contact centre capabilities by introducing new technologies and systems. Ribble says that this is ongoing and will continue to evolve and improve.
Aware that most lead times are much longer than consumers would like, Ribble points out that it has a section on its site that pulls together its ‘Best Availability’ bikes.
“These are builds which are configured with componentry that is more readily available and is constantly updated and amended to reflect the supply situation and to make sure the bikes contained within the range can be purchased, built and delivered in a shorter time frame,” Ribble explains.
Here is the full response we received from Ribble’s Customer Service Operations Manager Caroline Joice:
Ribble reacted very quickly to the increase in global bike demand and has significant component orders in place to fulfil current and future demand. Every Ribble bike is hand assembled in the UK and is the combination of over 40 components which can be customised via our Bike Builder tool and personalised to one of over 400 million design iterations using our Custom Colour proposition.
“The build date we communicate at the point of order is based on the confirmed purchase order delivery dates given to us by our component suppliers plus a significant buffer we add on top to cover any potential delays. However, each of these components are part of a global supply chain that has been under significant pressure and whilst the buffer we put in place results in many customers getting their bike before the communicated date, the current supplier and logistics delays the industry is experiencing are in some cases breaching the buffers we have put in place resulting in build dates slipping. Further complication is added where these delays are UK port and logistics based and communication is received at very short notice.
“We understand that the management and communication of these supply and logistic delays can have a negative impact on our customers and their overall Ribble experience which can detract from their new bike excitement. Therefore, in the last 18 months we have invested significantly in growing our Customer Service team and developing our contact centre capabilities by introducing new technologies and systems which make our communication channels more robust. This is ongoing and will continue to evolve and improve.
“We appreciate that due to the aforementioned reasons some of our lead times are currently longer than we would like, so we have added a dedicated section to our website to pull out our Best Availability bikes, these are builds which are configured with componentry that is more readily available and is constantly updated and amended to reflect the supply situation and to make sure the bikes contained within the range can be purchased, built and delivered in a shorter time frame.
“We sympathise with and apologise to customers who experience and are disappointed with build delays and rest assured we are doing everything we can to improve the situation and remedy their journey with us.”
Last month, some of you said on our forum that you were experiencing similar issues with another popular British bike manufacturer, Bowman Cycles.
There were claims of incorrect builds, poorly packed bikes and a lack of response to emails or calls, and when we spoke with their founder and managing director Neil Webb he confirmed that supply chain issues were having a devastating effect on the company’s ability to fulfil orders, and he’s trying to “work out how to refinance” the business.
“The big players are taking all the space," he added. "All the smaller businesses like us that I know are experiencing this same problem in some way, shape or form and these constant delays have taken huge amounts of manpower to manage.”
Commenting on the company’s lack of response to concerned customers, Neil Webb said Bowman had fallen short of expectations.
He said: “I’m aware we haven’t been able to get in touch with people for five or six weeks, which I understand is really shit. In hindsight we should maybe have told people ‘yes, we’ve got your email but we can’t tell you an answer’, but we thought the problems we’re experiencing would have been sorted out quicker than they have been.
"We’ve been waiting to give people the correct information and I can only apologise for people’s frustrations about that.”
Have you purchased a bike this year but have yet to have it delivered? If so, what’s your experience with the bike brand's customer service been?
Anna has been hooked on bikes ever since her youthful beginnings at Hillingdon Cycle Circuit. As an avid road and track racer, she reached the heady heights of a ProCyclingStats profile before leaving for university. Having now completed an MA in Multimedia Journalism, she’s hoping to add some (more successful) results. Although her greatest wish is for the broader acceptance of wearing funky cycling socks over the top of leg warmers.