All the RV forums and discussions relating to service issues are always from the point of view of the RV owner. Not that there is anything wrong with that as they are the customer and did pay the big bucks. But, what would it be like from the view on the other side of the service window?
Not surprisingly, there are a small percentage of totally unreasonable owners. Those customers that come in screaming, wanting everything for nothing, insisting on replacing with new in lieu of repair, never happy with anything, and so on. Unfortunately, as small as the percent may be, these people take a toll on dealers’ service personnel. This never-happy group erodes service employee’s attitude, ultimately affecting their performance, thus affecting many others. Those others are people, perhaps like you and me.
This really is nothing new. A small minority spoiling it for everyone. We see rules in other avenues of our lives that seem unreasonably restrictive, all put in place because of a minority of people that will not act responsibly nor be accountable. Pet restrictions in some areas because of lazy owners come to mind. But, let’s get back to the topic. Understanding what it is like from the other side of the service counter.
Communication from the customer to the service writer is critical. But there are many customer personalities that try to describe their issues, or at least their perception of the problems. This, in itself, can lead to a wide variance as to what may be wrong or what might, in fact, be normal. Once the customer has conveyed all this information and it has been written up, the technician gets the work order. Now, the tech translates what he believes the issues are and the work commences.
So, what part of this communication may be skewed in passing the real information? Well, it could be a number of things. A customer fails to mention that the problem is an intermittent issue. That is, sometimes it works, other times it does not. The lack of that information, and when it is tried and seems to work, may lead the tech to thinking it was not operated correctly. Here is an example that actually happened. A motor home owner discovered that his air horns would not work. He thought at first that the air valve had froze as the temperature was quite cool that morning. His thought was confirmed later in the day while he travelled and again tried the horns. They worked fine. But, an hour later he tested them again and, no sound. This went on for his entire cross country trip, they work fine sometimes and other times not. Upon his return home, he took the unit to the dealer for both regular maintenance and to correct several issues, the horns being one. In conveying the issues he failed to point out to the service writer that the horn failure was an intermittent problem. Once the technician had the work order he proceeded to make the necessary repairs and corrections. The air horns, however, appeared to work fine. He tested them several times and then again upon completion of all the servicing. They worked fine. This lead the tech to believing that the owner had probably forgot to turn the on/off switch that controls the power to the control valve. He checks it off as okay.
The next time the owner uses the motor home, about two weeks after picking it up from the dealer, he uses the horn to greet an oncoming friend. It does not work, only the small electric horns sound. He then tries it several times to no avail. At this point he was so upset at this he changes direction and drives directly to the dealer. Upon arriving he approaches the service manager, who was currently involved with another customer. He interrupted the two and started ranting about their terrible service. He demanded they drop everything they were doing and attend to this at once. He also then starts questioning everything else they did on his coach and adds that he wants a full refund for all the work they did.
The original tech that performed the work went out to check it. He was accompanied by the unhappy owner who continued to insult him and the dealership. The tech, having trouble getting a word in edgewise, finally managed to say he had tested it and it had worked fine. At this point the irate customer screams that it works sometimes, but that it should work all the time. This was news to the tech as no such information was presented at the time of repair. The tech then immediately started the engine and cycled the air pressure, soon revealing the problem. The solenoid controlled pneumatic valve would only operate when the air pressure was at or below about 105 psi. This rendered it intermittent depending on the current system pressure. Within the next 30 minutes a new valve was in place and the horns operated as they should.
This customer, still unhappy, now turns his rant into “The only way to get things fixed right is to start yelling, then things happen”. He may or may not ever return to this dealer for service, but he will tell everyone he talks to how terrible the service is there and how he straightened them out.
This clearly was not the fault of the dealer. As simple as the problem was, the customer did not clearly define the issue, if he had, the tech would have taken a different approach as he finally did after finding out. The old adage “Don’t fix it if it isn’t broken” is still the general rule. The fault lies purely on the coach owner for failing to adequately communicate all the needed information. However, the owner wins, and unfairly, the dealer loses.
Dealers also have to work with the manufacturer on a daily basis where warranty service is involved. These dealings also require accurate communications and procedures that are time consuming. In many cases the dealer loses money on much of their warranty service. The following actual happenings of a dealer warranty service demonstrates the issue.
The dealer sells and services travel trailers manufactured by a popular RV company. A customer with a trailer that is still under warranty complains about a heavily hazed lens on an outside light. The following procedure is followed.
- The service writer accompanies the owner and looks at the issue.
- The service writer gets the serial number and writes up the work order.
- The service writer gets a digital camera and photographs the subject light.
- The service writer passes the work order and camera to his service coordinator.
- The service co-coordinator copies the photo to a computer and prepares a factory warranty request complete with photo and sends it.
- After lunch, with no approval yet received, the coordinator phones the factory. Shortly the approval to replace the $3.50 lens arrives by e-mail.
- The coordinator passes the work order to a tech, who, as it is raining, takes a forklift and bring the unit into the shop.
- The tech goes to the storeroom and logs out the new lens.
- The tech removes the old lens and installs the new one.
- The service coordinator is called by the tech to photograph the new lens in place which is done.
- The tech uses the forklift and pulls the trailer back out into the lot.
- The coordinator downloads the photo to a computer and fills in the required warranty information and sends it.
Now, with a little luck, in a few weeks payment from the factory will arrive. Full payment for the dealer cost of the lens and the allowed 0.1 flat rate labor. This equates to 6 minutes of labor allowance. This is not an isolated case, and repeats with similar types of time consuming jobs that pay little.
Larger warranty jobs can also be a financial challenge. A case in point was an axle replacement which, after some lengthy communications with the factory, was approved at the cost of about $6,000. Upon completion of the work, the taking and sending of photos and needed paperwork, the dealer awaited payment. When over a month later, with no reimbursement, the dealer followed up with countless calls, all to no avail. Three months later, without explanation, the payment showed up, $4,000. The dealer was out $2,000 and would now have to fight to find out how he could get the balance.
Additionally to these events, it is common for the dealer to receive no payment for some warranty work, with a simple “Warranty Denied” message. All of these were in fact pre-approved by the factory.
Now, please do not think I’m throwing the manufacturers under the bus. They too have to deal with these unreasonable belligerent customers. They may also have had experiences with unscrupulous dealers that bill for fraudulent warranty repairs. Unfortunately, again a small minority may have spoiled it for all, leading to these never ending hoops that honest dealers must jump.
The dealer that experienced the warranty lens and axle replacement indicated the following. It would be cheaper to just supply and do the work for minor repairs at no charge. This would probably be less costly than incurring the labor required to do the photos, downloads, paperwork, and needed follow up. This particular dealer seemed very customer service orientated and feels strong about taking care of those that purchase from him. He did, however, indicate a reluctance to perform warranty work on units that he did not sell, purely because of the financial loss that occurs. The only exception would be a stranded unit owner. In this case he would gratefully help them out. This is certainly a dealer that I would like to buy from.
So, next time things don’t seem to be going right with your RV and your service provider, perhaps you should cut them some slack. It is not always what we think it is.
The Coin Has Two Sides – Lug_Nut – Peter Mercer
Note: The incidents and events, herein described, may not necessarily represent the policies of all manufacturers or dealers. The sole purpose of this is meant for interest and discussion.