This might be a hot button. Hopefully it will be well received though. I put together a list of ways to help people get the most out of their experience with LBS service departments. Feel free to post up your own suggestions from either shop employees perspective or consumer perspective.
Working with your mechanic.
1. Avoid self diagnoses. (be careful what you ask for)
Although it's o.k. to take a guess at what needs to be done to your bike to fix the problem, you should state clearly what the problem is. If you ask the service writer to adjust your gears and don't tell them "it slips when I go uphill", they will simply adjust your gears per your request. The reason that "it slips when I go up hill" might be caused by a worn out chain. Adjusting your gears might be needed but won't necessarily fix the problem that you wanted fixed. I had bike a that was in for a b.b o-haul once. Two days later the guy called me up all pissed off because it still squeaked. He never ask anyone to fix the squeak. He just assumed that it was the b.b. Turned out the squeak was coming from his pedal.
2. Bring your bike in for repair work in the off season if possible.
Depending on the climate where you live there is probably a busy season for you LBS. If you know that you are going to need work done on your bike try to bring it in before it gets really busy.
3. Call ahead on "while you wait" repairs.
If you want something done that is considered a more advanced repair like facing/chasing or disc brake bleed and you are hoping that your LBS can do it while you wait, call ahead first to make sure that there will be a qualified mechanic on duty.
4. Consulting with the mechanic that will be doing the work.
It's o.k. to ask to talk to the person that will be doing the work on your bike but be conscious that he/she might have a repair quote and might not have much time to talk.
5. The mechanic that you see in the back who is working on a bike isn't necessarily ingnoring you.
He/she is helping a customer that isn't in the store but might be coming back shortly. Ideally the mechanic should acknowledge you and let you know if they are able to help you or not. It can be less frsutrating if you understand why they can't help you immediately.
6. No one likes to have someone look over their shoulder while they work.
This includes bike mechanics. If they allow you to watch try not to get in the way.
7. Don't try to use the lingo if you don't know it.
Many times a customer will ask to have their wheel replaced when they really meant to aks to have their tire replaced. A seat clamp is different from a seatpost clamp. It's ok. to point to the part that you are talking about if you don't know it's name.
8. Listen to the message that the LBS left on your voice mail.
Don't just assume your bike is ready for pick up because you see their number on your caller i.d. They may have been calling to tell you that their is a problem and it's won't be done on time.
19. If you have a pet pieve tell it to the service writer.
If you have a particuler way that you like your bars wrapped you should make sure to say something upfront. Don't just get upset because it wasn't done right.
10. Climb the competency ladder.
There are probably some good mechancis working in the shop. It's o.k. to ask for the "recumbent tandem expert". The rookie that you were talking to will probably be relieved that you did. If the first person you talk to doesn't seem to be as competent as you'd like them to be, don't give up and leave. It's o.k. to ask to talk to someone more qualified, just try not to insult the person you are talking to. The shops website might have an employee profile. Maybe check it before you go to the shop so that you'll know who to ask for. The shop I work for has six locations and each one has it's own flavor. One location might have a BMX expert while another won't.
11. When calling the shop, please do not insist on a diagnosis over the phone. Youíll need to bring the bike in for a mechanic to look at.
12. When picking your bike up after having it serviced, test ride it before leaving the store. Itís much easier to resolve any problems on the spot.
13. Get an estimate up when you drop your bike for repair work. If the service writer doesnít offer an estimate you should ask for one. Remember that an estimate is just that, an ďestimateĒ. It is not a guarantee that the repair wonít cost more. The question is, will the shop call you before going over the estimate. Shops might have a policy that they will only go %10 over the estimate without customer approval. Know their policy. Make sure that you let them know if you donít want them to go over $x amount.
14. Maintain open lines of communication. Give the shop a good way to get ahold of you, like your cell phone number. If the mechanic comes across unexpected issues it important that they can speak to you about it right away. If they have to leave a message on your home phone while you are out, you might not get it before coming back to pick up your bike. Itís also frustrating to have to stop in the middle of a job, go hang the bike up, and start a new job. Also, they might bump your bike to the end of the list whne this happens.
15. Educate yourself. Many shops offer repair and maintenance classes. The more you know the better.