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The Go RVing Coalition’s upgraded Committee on Excellence reviewed presentations from the chairmen of five “task force” committees set up last fall to identify causes and cures for consumer dissatisfaction June 12 during RVIA Committee Week in Washington, D.C.
“The task force reports were very good,” said Richard A. Coon, president of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), who has spearheaded a push to convert the Committee on Excellence into a more aggressive, problem-solving body since assuming the head job at RVIA in January. “It’s already gone beyond my expectations.
“A lot of people picked up on the committee’s new duties quickly, and I’m particularly pleased with the openness and willingness of everybody to work together.”
Previously, the Committee on Excellence’s primary purpose was to commission customer satisfaction surveys of new RV owners about every two years since 1999. The most recent survey in 2005 found that customer satisfaction had not increased appreciably since the first survey and that nearly 20% of buyers expressed some amount of dissatisfaction with their experience.
The Committee on Excellence met privately June 12 for the first time under the dual chairmanship of Jim Sheldon, special assistant to the chairman of Monaco Coach Corp., and Marty Shea, owner of Madison RV Center, Huntsville, Ala.
“The thing that somewhat surprised me in a very positive sense is that manufacturers, to a large extent, realize that what the Committee on Excellence is doing is not going to be a threat to their proprietary, competitive advantage,” Sheldon told RV Business. “There was a lot of apprehension about that going into Committee Week.
“We continue to emphasize that we are not going to be setting up a review board or establishing standards by which manufacturers will be measured. And we will not tap into the way that individual companies do business. That is not where we are headed.”
The task forces, some with as many as 20 members from all sectors of the industry, were created in February to delve into the subjects of warranties, industry communication and support, industrywide training, replacement parts availability and product quality. Their initial reports to the committee identified a wide range of subjects that task force members felt needed attention but offered few solutions.
“We are in the very early stages,” said John Zimmerman, chairman of the communication task force and vice president of Sunline Coach Co., Denver, Pa. Zimmerman said his group’s focus will be “getting manufacturers, dealers and suppliers all on the same level as far as information flow” with regard to parts processing and warranty claims processing.
Industry consultant John Thompson, president of John Thompson Associates, Nicasio, Calif., and chairman of the product quality task force, said his panel intends to more closely analyze the bi-annual consumer satisfaction surveys completed in the past to more clearly define product quality issues.
“That data can be used in many ways to provide a microscopic look at ways that consumers want the RV industry to improve,” Thompson said. “Nobody wants to install an industry cop to oversee a bunch of new rules, but we do want to develop resources for people who want to use them.”
Task force presentations also were made to the RVIA and Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) boards, both of which met during committee week and endorsed the Committee on Excellence’s early efforts. Realizing the sensitivity of all of this in some corners of the industry, Coon cautioned that industry expectations should not become overblown.
“Some of the things that were presented (by the task forces) were fairly scary, and the (RVIA) board still hasn’t had a chance to digest what was presented,” he said. “They are being very patient. They don’t want to kill it (the quality-oriented initiative) without having a chance to study the suggestions. That’s about all you can expect with such a touchy situation.
“We need to be careful on the expectations. We don’t want it hyped beyond reality.”