By Ronnie Wendt
In a recent special edition of RV Daily Report, we looked at the RV service technician shortage. In this series of articles, Brandon Galbreath, a tech from D&N RV Service and winner of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA’s) Top Tech Challenge, expressed concerns about what it was going to take to boost service levels across the industry.
He said dealerships are going to have to “hear from customers saying, ‘We want better technicians working on our stuff.’”
In another article in the same issue, the concerns of Terry Cooper, head of the National RV Training Academy, took a darker turn. He said if the tech shortage isn’t improved, he felt the industry could “plateau and then take a downward spiral because people will turn to some other form of entertainment. Whether they buy an RV or something else will be determined by how well we service them.”
These comments led RV Daily Report to survey its readers to find out what they were seeing in the industry. The 10-question survey asked things like: How long after purchase did your RV need repair? What challenges/delays did you encounter with service? How might the service/maintenance process be improved?
The following is just a snippet of what we learned. Though there were some bright spots, RVers who expressed sincere satisfaction with their RV, dealership and service technicians, there were just as many sharing their concerns. In the words of one reader, “If service is not improved, the RV industry will go away.” And, from yet another respondent, “This will be my last RV purchase. I spent more time during my first year of ownership waiting for repairs to be completed, than time using my RV. Never again.”
With comments like these in the mix, the need for change becomes crystal clear. As the industry makes this the “year of the RV service technician,” in the words of Cooper himself, let’s look at what RVers had to say.
First and foremost, 46.7 percent of survey participants reported their RV needed service within less than 30 days, with 58.7 percent of respondents stating their RV was less than a year old when it required service. In one case, a reader reported taking his new RV back for additional service just hours after delivery, while another took a unit in for service one day after delivery, and a third one week after delivery.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom, however, there were a handful of respondents who reported their RVs had never required any service work, other than preventative maintenance.
The length of time it took to get an RV serviced varied: Most respondents (45 percent) noted it took less than a week to get their units serviced and back on the road but 24.4 percent of respondents reported it took more than three weeks to get their RV serviced.
When asked what challenges or delays they encountered with service and maintenance, the top response was parts delivery delays at 37.5 percent, followed by scheduling appointment delays at 33. 5 percent, and the problem not being resolved the first time at 32.9 percent. However, 48.9 percent of respondents reported things were resolved the first time and to their satisfaction. Still, there remains room for improvement, as 33.9 percent of respondents reporting the repair was not made to their satisfaction the first time.
One respondent noted, he waited almost a month for a one-day repair (leaking exhaust manifold), only to have it fail within 100 miles. Another reported having to “ride the service writers like a stubborn mule to insure the repair was completed accurately.” One person answering yes, that the repair was made to his satisfaction, qualified his response by saying “when the repair tech and supervisor become your closest acquaintances over a four-month period, there is definitely a problem.” And in the words of another, “I returned several times and it still wasn’t right, so I ended up fixing it myself.”
Warranty coverage was a bright spot among the results, with 48 percent noting the repair was completely covered by warranty and 17 percent reporting it was mostly covered by warranty.
Survey respondents pinpointed several breakdowns in the repair process; areas they felt were ripe for improvement. These included: a shortage of master technicians, better communication with the customer, and improving the new units produced at the manufacturer level.
“There is a serious lack of technical talent to fix RVs. Most times, you would have to go back to the manufacturer to get adequate service, and this shouldn’t be the case. Having RVIA certification in place is a first baby step here,” said one respondent.
Another respondent pointed to the communications issue, stating that if that was better it would make the wait time more understandable. “Kep the customer informed along the way. Call on a weekly basis at least so we can change our travel plans to fit current problems,” he said.
When it comes to manufacturers and suppliers, one respondent offered a four-step resolution:
- Build better quality from the manufacturer.
- Improve predelivery inspection and service from the delivering dealer.
- Improve quality of the service performed.
- Improve the availability of quality service.
Where service and maintenance are at was summed up well in the final words on the topic from a respondent, “We all know that even the best [units] require some attention. And ‘cost’ doesn’t mean exemption from this fate either. But at least the industry has finally recognized it has a servicing problem.”
Every solution starts with a problem. The good news in all of this is that the problem is now recognized, and solutions are popping up across the industry. On June 7, the RVIA Board of Directors approved a comprehensive strategic plan and multi-million-dollar investment to address RV owner satisfaction by creating a supporting foundation, the RV Technical Institute (RVTI), to address the RV industry’s shortage of trained technicians and to implement metrics to track the RV customer experience.
Other work has also begun. For example, the Pennsylvania Recreation Vehicle & Camping Association has partnered with Northampton Community College to offer courses for techs, and Thor Industries Inc.’s Keystone RV Co. recently launched the KRV Technical Training Academy for Keystone, Dutchmen and CrossRoads dealerships
And, then there is the National RV Training Academy at http://nrvta.com/ This organization founded by Cooper, the RV professor, strives to increase the number of technicians while also arming RVers with the knowledge they need to maintain their own RVs. Learn more about the NRVTA by clicking here.
These are just some of the solutions that have arisen in this, 2018, the year of the RV service technician. Perhaps in the years to come when RV Daily Report sends out a similar survey the results will be far different. In the meantime, we press on.