Over the last few weeks, I have been on my soap box about RV manufacturer warranties and my independent repair facility. It has included the following topics:
- Part 1: Why I would love to do your RV Manufacturer Warranty repairs
- Part 2: Why I refuse to honor your warranty!
- Part 3: Why you’re getting the runaround from your RV dealership
This week I am sharing my plea with RV manufacturers. It’s what I truly believe they can do to make this process better.
Dear RV manufacturer,
You are selling your units to dealerships that you know are not equipped to service the number of units they are selling to consumers. For the moment, let’s look past the hassles mentioned in Parts 2 and 3 of this series. If we simply look at the ratio of units the RV dealership sells compared to the number of units their service center can care for, there is a flat-out capacity issue. Based on sheer volume alone, you need the “little guys,” like us.
Whether it’s helping out with:
- The overflow of warranty work from nearby dealerships
- Helping a consumer that’s just passing through needing an emergency repair, or
- Helping a consumer who purchased a unit out of state …
You need us.
Let’s be friends
While you need us, don’t treat us like a “red-headed stepchild.” Independent repair facilities cannot operate like your dealership’s service centers. Our lots are not as vast and our pockets aren’t as deep. A very wise mentor/friend of mine often compares a friendship to a fence post. If one friend leans more boards against the post compared to the other friend, the post will fall. His analogy often comes to mind when I think about RV manufacturer warranty. For each reason mentioned in Parts 2 and 3 of this series, the manufacturer has piled boards against the post. It’s no wonder that the fence post has fallen.
A true friend won’t make you wait, pay you for half the job, or waste your time.
With the RV manufacturer and the selling dealership receiving all the benefits of the sale, those boards are even heavier to an independent repair facility. In order to make this relationship work with us “little guys,” I want to propose some boards we can lean on the opposite side of the post to even it out.
Point of contact
RV manufacturers love to lump independent repair facilities and dealership service centers into one category—and they treat us all the same. Requests for authorizations are often submitted through a complicated online portal. Once submitted, you now get to play a waiting game.
As an independent repair facility, we need a point of contact. Unlike a selling dealership, our lot size is limited. We don’t have the luxury of holding on to units while we wait for authorization for repairs. I need someone I can call or e-mail who can provide authorization in real-time or, at the very least, the same business day.
If there was a point of contact, it allows that manufacturer and repair facility to build rapport and trust. Should a repair require more time than the RV manufacturer allows, there is a space for both parties to work out the discrepancy. Instead of dealing with an online portal that spits out a time frame determined by drop-downs selected, the repair facility can reason with a person as to why it would take so much time for that repair.
Before Amazon Prime, DoorDash, and Instacart, when a friend was in a time of need you would drop off a care package.
Independent repair facilities that you do build a relationship with and prove to be a repair facility that you can count on should be outfitted with some common items required for warranty repairs, especially for the “low hanging fruit” repairs. These items should include:
- Seam tape
- Batten moldings and common trim
- Cabinet hardware
- Specialized putty, caulking or sealant
Having these items on hand would simplify the process and can often prevent a return appointment to our facility.
Good cop, bad cop time
As an independent repair facility, we did not build the unit and we didn’t sell it to the consumer; we are simply here to fix it. Yet, we often find ourselves having to play both good and bad cop. There is a line we have to tip-toe across. We want the consumer to feel that the manufacturer is taking care of them. But we also want to do our part to protect you, the RV manufacturer.
There are times when a consumer’s complaint ended up being a non-issue (such as the unit was designed to be that way or the consumer simply didn’t know how to use it). Or something broke that was the consumer’s fault (such as loading a drawer too heavy). I propose that RV manufacturers should pay a repair facility a certain allowance of time to play both good and bad cop. This time could be used to either educate the customer on how to use their unit or fix one item as goodwill.
Example: “This drawer was broken because you filled it too heavy. We are going to fix this as goodwill, but anything moving forward that is broken at your fault will not be covered by your manufacturer warranty.”
Educating a customer on their unit takes time. Fixing a small incidental takes time. Doing so can easily smooth over the customer but it allows us to level set expectations moving forward.
Allowing this time also prevents fraud. Because you don’t reimburse repair facilities for time spent on non-issues, I can guarantee you that invoices are being submitted for repairs that never really happened. Instead of reimbursing a facility for the 15 minutes they spent educating the customer on their jacks, you are reimbursing them for an hour “to locate and repair disconnected wires.”
Double appointments require double payments
As described in Part 3, there are times when customers need to pick up their unit and return at a later date because it will take so long to obtain the required parts. When this occurs, it doubles all of our time spent with the customer, which includes:
- Check-in procedures
- Porter’s time parking the unit at drop-off and pick-up
- Technician’s time gathering his tools along with opening and closing the unit.
As the saying goes, “Time is money.” Manufacturers need to reimburse facilities for doubling this time.
The parts bottleneck
I think I could write a 300-page book on issues with obtaining parts. To keep it as simple as possible, you know you can do better. I am willing to be realistic with large parts (such as furniture or awnings). But on smaller ticket items, there is no excuse. One of our readers (Kathy N.) shared how she bought a new unit in February 2020, and she waited 16 months for a small plastic piece for her screen door.
I propose you allow us to obtain parts that are not manufacturer-specific through one of the many parts distributors that can often deliver needed parts by the next business day. Anything that is manufacturer-specific should be overnighted or next-day air. You have sold a unit to a consumer who is accustomed to our Amazon Prime culture. Waiting several months for a part simply doesn’t compute.
I have often found that when we did manufacturer warranty repairs and had the customer return on a later date for installation, the customer returned with a new item that started the whole process over. I am convinced that if we were able to obtain parts quicker, there would be fewer warranty repairs that you are paying for.
You knew this topic would make its appearance. Expecting a repair facility to wait for payment on completed work for several months is insane. You don’t wait for payment on the sale of the unit before releasing it—why should we?
For the record, my wife, Ashley, shared in Part 2 of this series that we had a manufacturer warranty repair that was still unpaid from 13 months ago. Since that was published, we finally did receive payment. But it shouldn’t take 13 months to be paid, especially on an invoice as insignificant as $335.41.
My advice to the consumer
Are you currently shopping for a new unit? Or are you currently in the throes of getting some repairs done through a manufacturer warranty? I have some advice for you! Make sure you subscribe to RVtravel.com so you don’t miss this advice in next Saturday’s issue.
More from Dustin
Dustin owns and operates California RV Specialists, an independent RV repair shop located in Lodi, CA. He thrives on sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm of RV repair and maintenance with his team, customers, and virtual friends.
Be sure to check out his YouTube channel where he shares what’s going on in the shop and the product offerings in the store. Dustin is also very active on Facebook. Join his group, RV Repairs and Tips – What’s in the shop!
Dustin proudly operates the business alongside his wife, Ashley; but the true pair that run the show are their Boston Terriers, Arvie and Hitch.