Marketing information firm J.D. Power and Associates has decided to contact RVers directly to establish consumer satisfaction ratings instead of working through RV industry associations to confidentially gauge consumer sentiment.
After a hiatus of three years from the RV business, J.D. Power will use six consumer-oriented, RV-specific websites to recruit “J.D. Power Panel” members for an independent, third-party study on customer satisfaction.
That research will result in web-posted RV rankings, similar to what is done now on www.jdpower.com for autos, boats, hotels, online stock brokers, homes, cable and satellite TV, phone and Internet access services.
The global marketing research company, based in Westlake Village, Calif., initiated the recruiting process in December and is slated to officially launch the study in the spring of 2004. Among the participating websites are those hosted by the Escapees RV Club, Family Motor Coach Association, Good Sam Club, RV America Online, RVers Online and Class A RV News.
According to Linda Schulz, partner, commercial and specialty vehicles for J.D. Power, the first program will focus on newer model RVs. The survey will mirror consumer studies conducted by the firm in other major industries by soliciting and quantifying data regarding “on-the-road” experiences of RV owners.
“While we are looking for owners of all RVs, our initial focus will be on 2000 to 2004 model years across all types of RVs,” Schulz said, noting the goal was to recruit 30,000 qualified RV consumers. “This study will be the first of an annual measurement of RV customer satisfaction. The program will focus on the total RV, including chassis, coach and components. Separately, we will explore the consumer experience at the dealer level, looking at service and parts.”
As is the case with other industries, Schulz said the results will be posted on the company’s website at www.jdpower.com, offering a “high to low” ranking of brands in the different RV types. “As appropriate, we will also segment product types. For example, there will be different levels for Type A motorhomes to distinguish high-end versus entry level,” Schulz said.
J.D. Power was hired by the Go RVing Coalition’s Committee on Excellence to conduct a one-year proprietary study from 1999-2000, gauging overall customer satisfaction, but the results were not released to the general public.
“In 1999, we shared with the coalition that we were interested in doing a syndicated, or independent, study,” Schulz said. “However, we opted to do a proprietary study with the coalition at that time. The difference is that we design, fund and own the syndicated study. We will then license the rights to manufacturers to use the information. Eventually we are looking for our panel to be a portal for the RV industry featuring a variety of topics.”
Schulz said independent studies in other industries had led to overall improvement and “are designed to drive change to better serve the consumer.” Consumers can register for the panel at www.jdpowerpanel.com/rv14.htm. Panel participants will get points that can be redeemed as gifts to charity.