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Opinion: I’m a poor influencer

Opinion: I’m a poor influencer

By Greg Gerber
Editor, RV Daily Report

Imagine my surprise Saturday morning when I opened my email after a grueling week at the National RV Trade Show and a exhausting 12.5-hour drive from Louisville, Ky., to Bradenton, Fla.

The message, from the RV Industry Association, enticed me to find out how I did at the show. My goodness, I thought, I didn’t even know they were watching!

My excitement quickly burst when I opened the email to discover my “influencer score” was rated as 50 out of 100. Dead in the middle. I was influencing as many people as I was having no influence whatsoever.

I was invited to share my event performance and, although it is anything but glowing, I figured I’d share it here rather than on some social media platform. According to RVIA, I have:

  • Zero followers
  • Zero comments
  • Zero likes
  • Zero following
  • Zero bookmarks
  • Zero conversations

Yet, my influencer score still ranked me at 50 out of 100. That’s not bad, given the above data tracked by RVIA.

influencer-score

My paltry score is remarkable considering that I only downloaded the app. When I attempted to open it, I had to first give RVIA permission to access my contact list. That seemed kind of strange. I tried working around that requirement, but couldn’t find a back door.

Really, why would access to my contact list be required to download and open an app to find a booth number, schedule and a map? So, I immediately uninstalled the app. Wiped it off my phone. Never used it. Not even once.

Yet, my influencer score ranked me 50 out of 100.

The email encouraged me not to feel too badly because the average score was 75 based on usage at the event.

Just think, I may have greatly increased my influencer ranking if I had simply completed the installation on my phone and used it one time. I may have even reached 100 if I took a stupid selfie at the show and popped it on Facebook.

“Hi, Mom, I made it to the National RV Trade Show. Here’s me climbing a fake rock!  You’d be proud of me because I have an influencer score of 100.”

It was precisely because I figured RVIA would be tracking my interaction with contacts, my social media posts, the number of followers I have, the number of people I am following — and who they all are — which prompted me to delete the app from my phone.

In light of the email message and notification of my “influencer score,” I’m glad I did. I don’t want the association to really know the scope of my influence in the RV industry. The RVIA staff gives me too much credit for being able to change minds as it is.

Speaking of changing minds, did anyone catch the announcement made last Wednesday in the middle of the National RV Trade Show. According to the headline, industry leaders promise to improve the RV experience. The statement was issued by RVIA, the RV Dealers Association and the RVDA of Canada.

Short and sweet, here’s what it said:

“Over the past decade, the elected officers of RVDA and RVIA have met twice per year to discuss issues critical to the health of the RV industry. Over the last 12 months, this group has met several times to specifically address the most pressing issues around the end user experience, and all parties agreed that while significant investment and improvements have occurred in the areas of parts and service, there is still work to do.

“This morning, that leadership team, coupled with RVDA of Canada and a select group of representatives from the industry’s largest suppliers and distributors, agreed to invest in a third-party facilitated process to identify the primary actions needed to best improve our service-related issues.

“Our industry remains committed to the continued growth and prosperity of the RV industry, and this investment is the next step in the journey to improving the RV consumer experience.”

I know I’m a poor influencer, but let me attempt to interpret this for you.

Reading between the lines, we learn that industry leaders are so focused on improving the RVing experience for millions of disgruntled customers that they have been meeting two whole days a year for a decade to determine what’s wrong and how to fix it. Let’s assume those were full eight-hour days with a working lunch.

That means they invested 180 hours over the past 10 years into the process by talking among themselves. I’d bet my Christmas bonus on the fact that not one single RV owner was invited to any one of those meetings.

Talking among themselves didn’t work so well as the number of angry, disgruntled customers is growing and they’re becoming more vocal in their dissatisfaction with RV product quality, getting RVs serviced and their overall RV experience. They are also hiring lawyers, which certainly can’t be good.

So, the industry leaders promise to hire an expert to come in and talk with them about their problems. Let’s call this person a guidance counselor.

God, I wish I had RVIA’s money to invest in “outside third-party facilitators” to lead discussions.

This reminds me of the time I served on a local school board for two years. The school district had about 3,000 students, but spent about $30 million on outside consultants and experts to help them figure out what parents and students wanted from their public schools.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest a practical way to invest 180 hours in getting an up close and personal education on what’s wrong with the “RV experience.”

Rather than meeting in some swanky hotel at some resort somewhere, everyone in the group agrees to rent an RV for 10 days. If there are 20 people in the group, then there would be 20 rentals. No fair sharing. You want the full experience.

Plot a route where each person either drives or tows an RV for five hours a day. At the end of that day, they have to set up the RV. They should livestream their experience or at least blog about it on a common website, assuming they can get an internet connection at the campgrounds they visit.

Then, the next day they tear down the RVs and continue their journey.

As members fall out of the caravan because their RVs break and they have to find a repair center, the others can continue on the journey. At the end of 10 days, the remaining members will have a college-level education on what’s wrong with the RV experience.

They don’t need a high-priced consultant to “guide their process” of learning. They simple need to get out from behind their desks and into one of the products the industry builds — just like 400,000 people did this year.

My guess is that 10 days later they will have an excellent idea as to why there were 9 million RV owning households in 1997 and there are still only 9 million RV owning households today.

If this group takes my advice, I guarantee their influencer scores will be off the charts — and they won’t need some silly app to tell them that!

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About Greg Gerber

Greg Gerber is the editor and founder of RV Daily Report. A native of Madison, Wis., he moved to Phoenix in 2009 to escape the endless winters and wicked humidity of the six-week "summer" season. He's a DODO -- Dad of Daughter's Only -- who would crawl across the desert on his hands and knees for an In-N-Out Double Double. He has visited every state except Hawaii and is anxiously waiting for some RV company to host a conference in the Aloha State.

21 comments

  1. Too funny. Another great column. Right on Greg!

  2. I’ll rent them the RV’s. After all there are not too many people this stupid to do rentals for a living

  3. Want to know the state of the RV manufacturers? Look how many received the DSI award this year? Even Winnebago, who up until this year had received it every year since it’s inception, failed to get it this year. And the higher ups were not happy to hear that. They are just becoming another Forest River and Thor, building products that look great, but are built with poor quality components, including WAY to many LCI/Lippert parts. Maybe it is the kick in the a$$ that they need to straighten things up. Unfortunately, I doubt it, as the accountants will force the cheapness to continue in the name of a better bottom line, not a better customer experience.

    • Accountants don’t “force the cheapness”. Senior management makes those decisions — based on figures provided by accountants…

  4. Have had my 5th wheel for 10 years,and would love an updated interior,however it’s taken me 10 years to get all the problems fixed…..Why would I buy another headache??? Anyone listening ?????????????

  5. THE PROBLEM WITH ALL SURVEYS IS…..WHO IS INTERPRETING THEM AND WHY. A RATING, SURVEY, ETC. IS ONLY VALUABLE TO THE SOURCE GIVING IT AND HOW THEY SKEW IT FOR PUBLICATION. THEREFORE, IF THEY ASK YOU BACK THE NEXT YEAR….YA DID A GOOD JOB. IF NOT….FOR GET ABOUT IT.

  6. To be fair…quality does need to come up. The skill level of the RVers these days comes into question as well. Watching the cup cakes we are educating these days and their attitudes and skill levels make me think there ought to be a test qualifying one to even buy and operate an RV. There are two sides to every story and a lot of folks these days have zero repair skills r understanding of how things work. The problem in a nut shell…quality needs to come up as well as warranty service AND unskilled, over expectant whiners need to analyses their skill level before whining so much.
    At 20 person trip would yield results that would have to be factored by skill levels. Maybe a handicap like you get in golf would be helpful.
    Just sayin.

    • The manufacturers in our industry really seem to ignore the fact that most of our RV buyers simply do not have the skills to repair or rebuild their new RV and why should they need to, does Peter Orthwein of Thor Industries or does Pete Liegl of Forest River PERSONALLY need to repair their corporate planes while in the air, they seem to ask the RV buyers to fix their RV while in use that these two men have built and sold to the RV owners, the average buyer simply wants to have the camping experience and if that experience is a negative one or one that does not excite the buyer to do it again……………look at the growth of RV owners or lack thereof, stagnant for years.
      We have another very important issue regarding the growth of our industry, lack of camping sites available.
      The National Parks are becoming nearly impossible to get into without reservations months ahead and if you cant get in a couple of times to have the experience you and your friends were expecting…………..
      Campgrounds of all kinds need improvement and growth, from the best run commercial ones to the free camping ones and nearly free ones in all our United States of America.

    • Sorry, I couldn’t let this one go past.

      If owners have poor skills level, it might be because most dealers make little to no effort to provide any sort of meaningful training or education – at least that’s been my experience

      Several years ago, I bought a travel trailer from a dealer. I think I got maybe a 20 minute intro walk-around. That was it. Had it not been for the help, support and tutelage of friends and family, I probably would not have lasted a year and my trailer would have been like so many other – sitting in the driveway, gathering dust and not moving an inch.

      From the dealer, I got the impression that once they had my money they didn’t want me around any more. Had I been offered any classes, tutorials or additional training, I would have jumped at the chance, even if I had to pay a tuition fee to attend. None of us are born knowing all this stuff and with RV ownership especially, there is a steep learning – especially for newbies.

      And, its not just me. Most of the people I’ve talked to in RV parks and campgrounds have similar stories.

      Contrast this with other industries. For example, my wife works in a small independent sewing store. Everyone who buys a sewing machine from this store gets up to 3 individual lessons to become familiar with their purchase. Each one is usually an hour long. It doesn’t matter if the sewing machine is a $300.00 entry level unit or a $6,000 top of the line model. Its one of the ways they compete with the big box stores.

      As well, they are continuously offering all sorts of classes on things to sew with a sewing machine. The classes aren’t free but they are not very expensive either and they are a good opportunity to introduce new products and gadgets.

      I’m absolutely amazed that a purchase costing tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars doesn’t rate the level of support offered with the purchase of a $300 sewing machine.

  7. Once again you’ve nailed it Greg. How about a consumer board regarding RV’s, with some real clout. How about using folks that full time in their RV’s to really make suggestions. I’m thinking they’d be fair enough to to consider the weekenders’ concerns too, but will have the real experiences necessary to make educated suggestions. As much as I hate to say it, how about some federal oversight/rules, such as the auto industry has to follow,that was forced on them over the years, to force these manufacturers to pay attention and start producing a better product. Obviously they’re unable or unwilling to affect any change for the good of the consumer. Maybe encouraging the national RV clubs to come together, as one voice, and start taking on this most important of important issues?

  8. And no fair taking a “Tech” as your traveling companion. As if you could find a course-trained tech at a dealership anyway. Another consideration is to take the RV designer as your traveling companion. After 30 days of using the product they designed, I will also bet my Christmas bonus that you would see SIGNIFICANT design changes across the product line. Might even see controls that are easier to reach, find, or use along with better storage for the kitchen and bathrooms. It just amuses me to see a BH type RV with a 7 cubic foot refrigerator and no kitchen pantry; where are you going to put the food for all the children on that week long vacation?
    Another great article, from our favorite 50% Influencer! Keep it up!

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