Sell the experience, not just the RV

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the October issue of RV Executive Today. It is reprinted with permission of the RV Dealers Association.

By Bob Clements
President, Bob Clements International

I recently asked the service and parts managers at a dealership what experience they were trying to create for their customers.  There were long pauses before either of them could answer.

My point in asking was to show them the importance of having each department — in fact, each employee — understand what kind of dealership experience they were trying to create.

With manufacturers jamming more and more dealers into a market, the lines you handle give you less and less of an advantage.  To set yourself apart from the competition, you can no longer rely on your brands.  You must work to create a unique experience that your competitors can’t easily duplicate.  Here are some ideas to try.

1. Understand what makes you different and unique.

People will pay more for what they perceive as different or unique.  Why is a Ming Dynasty vase more valuable than a vase from a local discount store? Because there aren’t many 4,000-year-old vases around.  The rarer an item is, the more value we place on it.

What do you want customers to say as they walk away from your parts counter — “Their prices are high and they never have the part I need?”  How about your service department — “They have great labor rates, but when you get it back, it never works like they promised it would?”

Whether you’re aware of it or not, your staff is constantly creating customer experiences. You must make sure it’s the kind of experience that causes your customers to recommend your dealership to their friends.

2. Make sure you’re developing your brand.

Your brand has nothing to do with your location, the lines you carry, or the building you’re in.  It refers to the reputation behind your company’s name and logo. To build your brand, be consistent in the image you create in your store, your advertising, and your web presence.

I ask my dealers to create a “sell line” that communicates what they’re all about in a single sentence.  That “sell line” is then used on signage, business cards, ads, and websites.  Think of something simple– Campbell Soup’s “It’s mmm, mmm good!” or Coke’s “It’s the real thing.”  Take some time to develop that one perfect sentence that tells your customers who and what you are.

Don’t underestimate the impact your employees have on the customer’s perception of your brand.  Once a customer is ignored at the counter, for instance, or treated poorly on the phone, you’ve lost not only that person but everyone else who hears about the unfortunate experience. Remember that word-of-mouth can help, but it can also hurt. Get rid of employees who won’t cooperate, even if they’re related to you.

3. Reward your people for delivering the experience.

Set employee goals that focus on delivering the customer experience you want to create.  As I help dealership service and parts departments define the customer experience they want to be known for, I work hard to make sure every employee understands what we’re trying to accomplish and how they’ll be rewarded if they help to deliver that experience.


Bob Clements is president of Bob Clements International, a training and development company specializing in developing high-performance dealerships. He will present “Take on the Mass Merchandisers, the Internet, and Win,” “Turn Your Service Department into a Cash Machine,” and “Creating a High Performance Parts Department” Nov. 4 during the 2015 RV Dealers International Convention/Expo.

Greg Gerber

Greg Gerber

A journalist who has covered the recreation vehicle industry since January 2000, Greg Gerber founded RV Daily Report on April Fool's Day in 2009. He also serves as the editor of the publication and website. As an Eagle Scout, he has enjoyed camping for decades and has visited every state except Hawaii. A DODO -- Dad of Daughters Only -- to three young women, he has two grandchildren as well. He currently splits his time between Wisconsin, Texas and Arizona. Greg can be reached at

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