The sixth annual Open Range and Highland Ridge travel trailer and fifth-wheel rally drew 80-plus RVs and 175 club members from as far away as Texas and California to the Elkhart County Fairgrounds in Goshen, Ind., June 4-9. Shipshewana, Ind.-based Open Range RV Co. was established in 2007 and transitioned to Highland Ridge after being purchased by Jayco Inc. in 2014. (To view a slideshow scroll to the right side of the RVBUSINESS.com home page).
The event offered attendees a good mix of both the old and new towables. The annual homecoming to Elkhart County also had a pronounced focus on service, offering free repairs for coaches still under warranty.
“This time of year, service centers are all crazy busy but we’ve been able to pledge that we would have our technical people out here for at least three days,” said Marc Hauser, vice president of sales and product development for Jayco.
Also present with vendors and technical support were suppliers Lippert Components Inc., MORryde International Inc., G&L Specialties, Elkhart Satellite, Sky Med, Kleen Tank, Truck Technologies, RV Safety & Education Foundation, Truck Technologies, Dexter Axle and Interstate Batteries.
Brand loyalty, repeat business and showing off the newest products to a committed group of prequalified buyers has always been a key factor in these gatherings. But, Hauser explained, in this highly competitive RV environment, all the Jayco companies have an invigorated commitment to a customer service culture. Owners’ rallies “dovetail perfectly into this initiative,” he noted.
“Sales at these functions have become the least important aspect to us,” said Hauser. “I can tell you now this is a Jayco-wide initiative and we are really diving into how our company can make the consumer experience better. Simple things like connectivity to the company, including having an open portal to where customers don’t have to go through all the red tape to get someone on the phone to fix a problem.”
Hauser said frankly that customers getting routed to service call centers must become a thing of the past. “We are really trying to figure out ways to be ultraconnected to our consumer. So this rally for me today is very important,” he noted. “These owners are our boots-on-the ground people. These are the people that really are committed to camping in these. A lot of them are full-timers. These are the users that can give us invaluable feedback on every aspect of our products.”
Hauser said from floorplan design to engineering, appliances and trim packages, owners groups hold the key to the overall customer experience and satisfaction.
“This will be a dealer imitative as well. We want to be connected before, during and after the sale,” he said. “I know that sounds cliché or corny. The RV purchase experience today can be very difficult. Just getting the correct information from OEMs on length, weight, and tank sizes can present a challenge to the buyer. All the Jayco divisions want to make this process very responsive, easy and with an expedited response time. If a consumer is out there shopping for our stuff I want to answer them right now. How can we solve this problem as an industry?”
Full-timers Dottie and Dewey Reed based in Anthem, Ariz., are hitting all the Highland Ridge owners group rallies from coast-to-coast in their 2012 Open Range 391 RES. The couple retired after 37 years working in Silicon Valley.
“We are six weeks into six months of being on the road,” exclaimed Dottie Reed. “We leave Arizona in April until October because right now it is 110 degrees there. We are in our third rally so far this year. There are six rallies or reunions in six months with six weeks in between them. Our final destination this year east is Halifax, Nova Scotia.”
“And then it’s all the way back to Portland, Ore.,” Dewey Reed chimed in. “We’ve been full-time RVers for 11 years. We wore out the first trailer. It fell apart. We have roughly 50,000 miles on this one. We like this Open Range RES.”
Their 2012 Open Range includes a large side porch with an awning where they like to relax. “We saw this at a dealer in Mesa and we had to have it because of the porch and the size of the refrigerator,” said Dottie Reed. “We’ve always had an RV in the driveway. We would just take off and go to Reno or Oregon from our home.”
A pin on her shirt designated she is an active member of the Open Range Owners Forum that started six years ago. “It’s a great place for owners to stay connected. We stay connected with each other from all over the United States and Canada.”
“We were in a restaurant on the Michigan side of I-80,” added Dewy Reed.” There were eight of us. We talked to two men and asked if they were involved with Open Range. They said they were with Jayco. He wanted to know what we thought of Open Range. And when we got up to leave, they had paid our lunch bill. That was our first experience with Jayco.”