FreedomRoads LLC co-founder Marcus Lemonis, convinced like many in the industry that the RV arena needs to take a harder look at the professionalism of after-the-sale service, is calling on industry leaders to supplement Go RVing Coalition funding in the future with considerable dollars that can be channeled to training and recruitment of qualified technicians.
Speaking on behalf of FreedomRoads, the nation’s largest retail entity with 54 retail locations generating $1.4 billion in annual sales, Lemonis says he personally contacted the leadership of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) shortly after RVIA Committee Week in June to issue his appeal for monetary support of technical training.
“We keep selling more RVs and then we celebrate our successes in the marketplace,” Lemonis, chairman and CEO of the Chicago area-based retail chain, told RV Business. “But with more and more RVs on the road, customers are going to become dissatisfied with the service that is provided.
“The dealer community is currently spending around $20 million a year on the Go RVing campaign,” added Lemonis, who formerly worked in automotive retailing. “We’re pouring all this money into driving people through the front door, but it’s time we started paying just as much attention to the back door. That’s fixed operations, which include parts, service and collision repair. If we don’t, we’re going to start losing customers.”
Currently, funding generated through Go RVing assessments added to the RVIA seal fees manufacturer-members buy for each unit they build are targeted exclusively for the Go RVing market expansion campaign, which is strictly focused on advertising buys. During RVIA Committee Week, the Go RVing Coalition unanimously voted in an assessment price hike, increasing per-unit assessments $2 to $8 to help finance the fourth three-year phase of the campaign.
Lemonis emphasized that he supports the coalition’s current advertising and promotional efforts and doesn’t wish to alter the foundation already built over the past decade. The object now is to take another step in a new direction.
“I spoke with both the RVIA and RVDA and let them know that I am one hundred percent behind the program,” he stated. “It’s definitely added value to the industry.”
Lemonis adds, however, there is a general consensus within the industry that inadequate service and a lack of qualified technicians represent this sector’s Achilles heel. It’s a theme that emerged more than once behind closed doors at Committee Week in early June.
“The dealer community is reinvesting millions of dollars annually in capital investments to build or upgrade service facilities,” he said. “But we’re still doing a poor job. We need to attract the right type of work force to our industry while also providing ongoing training.
“I think we’ve reached a diminished return in bringing people through the front door. We need to take a giant leap forward on the service end, and one way to do that is to allocate a significant amount of dollars toward the dealer sector’s fixed operations.”
In the final analysis, Lemonis advocates “taking a breath” and analyzing the situation. “It’s time we make a concerted effort to put together a plan to address this service issue,” he said.