In our most recent RVBUSINESS.com Industry Poll, we asked industry insiders their thoughts on a topic that has received a lot of lip service in recent years, but has never enjoyed the kind of attention that it has lately.
And that’s quality, both in products and services.
Why is the topic getting more scrutiny lately?
People are frustrated by recent consumer surveys indicating the industry isn’t moving the needle with respect to quality as much as it should. And there’s a movement afoot among some of the leaders of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and the overlapping Go RVing Coalition to possibly convert the coalition’s quality-monitoring Committee on Excellence into more of an active force for hands-on change. Led in large part by incoming RVIA President Richard Coon, meetings have been held, sub-committees are currently being formed and strategies are being mulled.
So, we thought it would be timely to find out what RVBUSINESS.com’s registered visitors really think about all this in our most recent e-mail survey, conducted right before the Louisville Show:
Which industry segment – manufacturers, suppliers or dealers – in your view most needs to improve its commitment to quality? A total of 45% of the respondents indicated that the manufacturers are the greatest priority, while 37% say all three segments need to improve.
Rate the current level of manufacturer quality on a scale of 1 to 5, with five being the best rating? A total of 55% gave manufacturers a 3, basically a “C” grade, while 29% gave them 2’s, or “D’s.”
Rate component suppliers on the same scale. Again, the largest number of respondents, 47%, gave the suppliers 3’s, or “C’s.” The next largest group, 34%, felt suppliers’ performances were worthy of 4, or “B,” ratings.
Rate dealers on the same scale. The returns, again, were similar to those of the suppliers, with 47% issuing 3’s and 26% registering 4’s.”
What areas of OEM customer care need the greatest improvement – parts replacement, warranty work, up-to-date service manuals, training or all of the above? Here, the biggest block of respondents, fully 59%, answered “all of the above.”
What would be the most effective move toward improving quality for the Go RVing leadership? The majority of the RVBUSINESS.com registrants, 56%, would prefer to do more customer satisfaction research before making a move. And the second largest group, a distant 22% of the 268 surveyed individuals, would like to see the Committee on Excellence’s role elevated in trying to rectify the industry’s quality status.
And, finally, would they support funding a quality program through the Go RVing Coalition? Curiously, 46% say maybe, 33% yes and 20% no.
The essay responses, meanwhile, were typically to the point:
• “Everybody’s still too busy doing it the old way,” says a respondent whose company does consulting in software design. “They won’t even look at solutions when offered.”
• “OEM’s are putting out the minimum,” writes a manufacturer. “Suppliers are responding to price pressure and retailers are promising the world to the customer until the sale is made, then, they forget about the customer. And we can’t understand why the consumer is dissatisfied? Please….”
• “There is no way to force quality on everyone,” a lender comments. “We need to publicize quality ratings on every manufacturing company and then try to quantify dealer quality criteria. Manufacturing improvement must come first.”
• “The RV manufacturer and dealer networks must move toward the auto industry in terms of establishing the channels and systems required to perform quality warranty work,” a supplier posits. “A car owner would never be asked to call AC Delco directly if their car radio didn’t work. So, why would an RV OEM ever expect their customers to call a supplier directly for in or out-of-warranty parts issues?”
• “The industry’s not a three-legged stool, but rather four,” adds an individual who works in manufacturing. “If we don’t add to and improve the trailer parks, this customer may never become the motorhome park customer that we keep building for. We need a CSI system for private parks also. A bad experience will knock this customer out after the coalition spends all the money to attract him!”
• “Quality will only improve when dealers and consumers demand it and are willing to pay for it,” adds another manufacturer. “Follow the $$. When other OEM’s and suppliers see quality producers being rewarded, massively, then behaviors will change.”
• “Much of the time we feel like we are out here alone with little or no help,” states a dealer. “Yes, the RV manufacturers have a toll-free helpline for the retail public. But often these phones are staffed with untrained people. This makes a bad problem worse when they either offer little or bad advice. Seems like it’s always, ‘your dealer’s fault.’ So, I don’t believe I see much short-term improvement.”
• “Having been on both sides of the fence, as an RV business owner and RV owner, I can understand how hard it is to provide a problem-free product or service,” adds a respondent who’s in the service business, along with parts and accessories sales. “But I have also seen a number of new RVers give up RVing in total frustration after trying to get a problem unit dealt with. If we are going to succeed long term, we must change our QC (quality control) practices somehow, and now, before we lose too many people.”