Don’t leave RVers stranded.
That was one of several key messages Winnebago Industries Chairman, President and CEO Bruce Hertzke delivered to the nearly 100 dealers, manufacturers and vendors attending the recent 11th annual conference of the California Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association, CalRVDA.
“Part of being prepared for the future in this industry is to recognize the fact that all our customers travel in their RVs,” Hertzke told those gathered for the affair, held Nov. 9 at Marriott’s Rancho Las Palmas Resort in Rancho Mirage, Calif. “And if we’re not there to help them when they have a problem, our chances of growing together just got flushed down the holding tank.”
It’s a two-way street, Hertzke stressed, with manufacturers and dealers sharing equal responsibility.
“My job as a manufacturer is to make sure that we build you a product that is of high quality,” said Hertzke, who also serves as RVIA board chairman. “In addition to that, my job as a manufacturer is to make sure I’ve got systems and procedures in place to support you in repairing that unit in the event it has problems.”
Dealers, however, have a responsibility to make sure they understand manufacturers’ service and parts programs so they can take care of repairs quickly.
Hertzke also called on dealers to provide service to all RVers, including those who purchased units elsewhere.
“If a traveling customer stops into your dealership with a problem on a unit you didn’t sell him, do you send him packing?” Hertzke asked. “Or do you take the opportunity to try to build a new customer relationship by helping him out? What if it was one of your customers who was doing the traveling? Would you want him to be left stranded halfway across the country with no one willing to help? Would that increase his chances of buying another RV from you in the future? We all know the answer.”
Hertzke conceded that dealers and manufacturers face challenges on the customer service front, including a shortage of qualified technicians, limited service space and an increasingly demanding customer. “But working together,” he said, “we can continue to chip away at those problems one by one in an effort to make continuous improvement.”
CalRVDA President Bruce Cooper addressed a variety of issues, noting that the organization continues to provide a growing array of services, including garage liability insurance, workers compensation coverage, service contracts and legal services.
The association also produces a statewide market report that enables dealers to track manufacturers’ sales and market share on a monthly basis.
California is one of the nation’s largest RV markets, accounting for more than 13% of RV sales in 2003. “That number climbs into the low 20% (range) during certain months if you look only at motorized RVs,” Hertzke added.
In other action, CalRVDA installed its officers for 2005. They include President Bruce Cooper of Village RV Inc. in Roseville; Vice President Andy Coyle of Canyon Coach & Trailer Inc. in Colton; Secretary Darrel Friesen of All Seasons RV in Yuba City; and Treasurer Patrick Kennedy of Alpine Recreation Sales in Morgan Hills.