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Scott Bahr

Scott Bahr

At a time when RV sales are on the upswing, a new independent consumer survey conducted by Maine-based Cairn Consulting Group gives the recreational vehicle industry pretty good marks with regard to customer satisfaction, reports Cairn President Scott Bahr.

The results of “The RV Owners’ Satisfaction Survey,” based on online surveys this past fall of some 1,600 RV owners and camping enthusiasts, are decidedly positive in an era in which the industry – behind the scenes — is looking at ways to enhance the “customer experience” for hundreds of thousands of U.S. RV consumers at the OEM, supplier, distributor and dealer levels.

“I can tell you that there were some surprises,” said Bahr, a market researcher who’s not yet releasing detailed survey results while doing some initial work with a handful of RV builders. “And the biggest surprise, considering that we hear so much hand-wringing lately about quality, was that consumers’ perceptions of quality aren’t as bad as some people might think. Having said that, there’s still a pretty decent number of people who aren’t satisfied with quality. But overall satisfaction levels were higher than I would have anticipated regarding overall quality. It was very interesting.

“If I would share those overall results with you, you’d be able to see exactly what most people are satisfied with — things like reliability and how well the RV fits their lifestyle,” explained Bahr, who has conducted consumer surveys for a number of companies including Kampgrounds of America Inc. (KOA). “At the lower (negative) end of the scale, you have some of the items (of consumer concern) like gas mileage, although, I’d have to ask, ‘is anyone really satisfied with the gas mileage on their RV?’”

Bottom line, Bahr added, surveyed consumers seem most concerned about the industry’s “responsiveness” to their problems because RV owners often don’t know where to turn for help when they experience difficulties while on the road.

“They don’t feel like the dealers and/or the manufacturers in some cases are really being responsive to them,” he said. “So, you may actually have a low number of people who have problems, but those problems get amplified if someone isn’t taking care of them. With today’s social media, if someone has a problem, they know how to essentially broadcast that problem and how bad it was to an unlimited Internet audience. It’s broad-based. I think these are some of the things that are feeding into that (negative quality perception).

“So, again, I think it’s how the industry responds to problems that may be perpetuating many of these issues,” observed Bahr, a Western Michigan University grad now operating out of Bryant Pond, Maine. “You know, some people are probably going to disagree with me. They’re going to say, ‘we have tons of problems; we have all these service issues.’ But it’s simply not the truth. So, I think it’s (quality in general) an issue that the industry needs to address, but I also think it’s something on which we should keep our perspective as well.”