From the start, Bruce and I have always agreed that we would not use this blog as a personal soapbox, but our recent experiences with a local RV dealership have left us so frustrated that we wanted to share them with you. So without naming any names and airing too much dirty laundry, we would like to tell you our story. We would also like to open up a discussion and hear your thoughts about the state of customer service in the RV industry.
Just like used car salesmen, RV dealerships often tend to get a bad rap. Many times this is not deserved and although we had a bad experience this time around, we have also had some good ones as well. In fact, several of our good experiences were with this same dealership. We were so pleased with our first experience with this dealership that when it came time to buy our next RV that we didn’t even give shopping anywhere else a second thought. We found the perfect ‘new to us’ Winnebago and signed on the dotted line. Since we bought used, there were some warranty issues that needed to be fixed. The fiberglass was also looking a bit dull, so we had opted to purchase the Cal Tex treatment, an ‘RV Spa Treatment’ to remove the oxidation and apply a new clear coat to restore the shine.
The camping season was coming to an end, but we wanted to go out a couple of times before it was time to put her away for the long winter. Three weeks later we dropped her off for the above mentioned service and to get the unit winterized. It was a balmy 60° Saturday in Minnesota the day we left her at the dealership. But as is common up here in the north-land, the next day the weather took a turn for the worse. Fall was over and winter was definitely here to stay. The dealership was closed, so we spent the whole day on Sunday hoping that our new baby was safe and warm inside the garage.
A phone call to the dealership Monday morning confirmed our worst fears. The unit had been left outside and damage had occurred. The dealership did not take responsibility because they said the damage could have occurred prior to us bringing it in for service. This was not the case, so we fought back. The one week battle that ensued could be best described as a three ring circus with a dash of indifference thrown in for color. We persisted, and in the end they agreed to fix the damage. They got to work and we started dreaming about the day that our RV would once again be sitting in our driveway, waiting for camping season to arrive. Days and then weeks passed, and we called to ask about the status of the repairs. After being transferred to several different people we got our answer, “We’re waiting for parts.” We inquired about when they would be in and the repairs finished and asked them to call us to keep us informed of their progress. This process was repeated several times over the next few weeks, each time it was the same response, “We’re waiting for parts.” Each time we were the ones who had to call to ask if the unit was ready to pick up.
Finally, six weeks after we dropped it off, they told us it was ready to go. Excited, but weary after our endeavour, we arranged to pick it up. We asked them to bring it inside for our appointment so that we could inspect the repairs and they agreed. We checked for leaks and found none, the warranty items were all fixed to our satisfaction, but we were more than disappointed with the condition of the exterior of the RV. Due to some overzealous buffing, several of the decals on the RV were torn or had rough edges, others were covered with a dull film that was not there before and could not be removed. One had obviously been replaced and stuck out like a sore thumb, shiny, bright and new. We were angry and dumbfounded at the same time. Did they really think we wouldn’t notice? Once again we are ‘negotiating’ with this company to fix the damage that they have done. We will keep you posted on that saga…
Our complaints with this company are not with the job that was done. Although we were displeased with the additional repairs that had to be made, we understand that accidents happen. We all make mistakes. How the mistakes were dealt with and how we feel we were treated is where we take issue with this company. We felt like we didn’t matter and that their attitude was “If we pretend that there isn’t a problem it will go away.” Here are a few examples of the areas where this company fell short when it came to customer service. When handled in the right manner, they are also the areas where companies can turn a disgruntled customer into a repeat customer for life.
“I’ll check and call you back.” If I had a dollar for every time that I heard that line over the last six weeks, I would be a very wealthy woman. If I also had a dollar for every hour that I waited for the phone to ring with the answer to my question, I would be able to retire tomorrow. The number one rule of customer service is to let the customer know you care. You can’t fix everything right away, and some things you may not be able to fix at all, but avoiding the customer does not make the problem go away. An open line of communication is key.
I Can’t Do That
Both Bruce and I are in the IT service industry and we deal with customers on a daily basis. As employees, we understand that sometimes there are some decisions that you just can’t make yourself for a multitude of reasons. We also know that even if we cannot make these decisions, that there is always someone else who can. Rather than offer to find someone who would be able to say ‘yes’, the employees at this dealership simply said ‘no’. They were also very good at deflecting the conversation with a multitude of excuses. When asked a direct question, more often than not the answer was, “They had to ask so-and-so and they weren’t in today”. We were also amazed at how often their source for parts was closed. Taking action rather than making excuses is the key to showing the customer that they are important.
What Seems to be the Problem?
Those of you that follow this blog know that I love to share a good story, but how many times do you have to tell a story before telling the story gets old? I know that management always wants to hear ‘your side’ before making a decision and this is a good thing, but I also know that small companies like this do not operate in a vacuum. I was amazed at how many times I would get ‘dumped’ to the next person up the chain without even an introduction from the previous employee and I would have to start again… from the beginning… and tell the whole story. Management’s lack of knowledge of my problem made me feel like they were out of touch with what was going on in their dealership. Perhaps examining this relationship would be a good place to start improving customer service. If an employee does not have a good line of communication with management and they don’t feel like they can come to them with problems, then they will try to keep the problems from management, because they will be worried that they will be blamed for them. Once again a failure to communicate is the underlying issue here.
Long story short, we no longer trust this company enough to do business with them again. After a long relationship with them, it saddens us that we have come to this decision, but in the future we will spend our money at a dealership that values their customers enough to take care of them after the sale. Sadly, it seems that the RV industry, like so many others, no longer value customer service. Perhaps it is due to the economy, or perhaps it is simply due to a change in the attitude of society in general. Whatever the reason, we hope that by sharing our story with you, that we will somehow make a difference in that attitude, no matter how small.
We would like to hear about your RV dealership experiences too. Without naming names or pointing fingers, please let us know what you think about customer service in the RV industry, either here or on our facebook or Twitter page! We also know that we have some followers in the RV industry. We would also like to hear from you about what you do to make your customers feel like they have been taken care of, or perhaps lessons you have learned about how you can improve customer service in the future.