Committee on Excellence Chairman Jim Sheldon told RV industry executives meeting Nov. 10 in Ontario, Calif., that there is no quick fix for the customer satisfaction woes the RV industry is facing, despite a general groundswell of interest right now.
Sheldon’s blunt assessment came as the Committee on Excellence is preparing to change its focus to finding solutions to the RV industry customer satisfaction issues rather than merely measuring them.
“I wanted to make darn sure that people understood where we are headed, and that it’s not going to be a walk in the park,” said Sheldon, special assistant to the chairman of Monaco Coach Corp., Coburg, Ore. “Many of the issues have been around a long time. Because of that, it would be foolhardy to think we can solve these problems overnight or even in a year.
“It’s going to take a rethinking of how we operate if we are every truly going to raise the level of customer satisfaction.”
More than 65 people – including four manufacturers – attended the California meeting that was designed to bring Committee on Excellence members and other industry “stake holders” up to speed on quality-related changes proposed by the boards of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA).
“We had a very good turnout,” said Richard A. Coon, RVIA president-elect, noting that representatives of state dealer and manufacturer associations from Florida, Pennsylvania, Texas, California, Michigan and Utah attended the meeting.
“The interest was pretty high, and there were some very good suggestions,” Coon said.
Previously, the Committee on Excellence’s primary purpose was to measure customer satisfaction for the Go RVing Coalition in a survey of owners of new RVs conducted every two years since 1999.
The most recent survey earlier this year found that customer satisfaction had not increased appreciably since the study was first commissioned.  Nearly 20% of purchasers of new RVs from 11 manufacturers that provided customer information
for the survey expressed some amount of dissatisfaction with their experience.
“We all know that the issues can’t be solved by dealers and suppliers alone,” said RVDA President Mike Molino. “They have to be solved by a team effort, with manufacturers playing a key role.”
Also at the California meeting, former RVDA Chairman Marty Shea, owner of Madison RV Center, Huntsville, Ala., was appointed Committee on Excellence co-chairman, and five committees were formed to explore issues surrounding product quality, dealer support and communication, parts, technical and professional training and warranty processes.
“Each subcommittee has a list of deliverables,” Coon said. “What is the problem?   What is its root cause? What are the fixes, and what resources are available?”
Shea, in an interview with RV Business, said that despite concerns about customer service going back more than a decade, it’s been only recently that enough people have decided that customer satisfaction should be dealt with on an industrywide basis.
“Collectively, the RV industry needs to make a major culture change,” Shea said. “There are enough people out there now who see that customer service is something that we really need to address.”
After the subcommittees make their reports, Sheldon said,  the committee will seek further direction from RVIA and RVDA. ”They didn’t really green-light this activity,” Sheldon said. “They green-lighted taking the next step, which is laying out what we see as the problems and where we should be heading.
“At least a couple of manufacturers wonder if this is the best path for the Committee on Excellence to follow.”
Sheldon said he expects the subject of how to pay for Committee on Excellence’s new duties to be a hot topic during the annual RVIA Committee Week in June.