A little over a month ago, I wrote about some challenges I had with my Winnebago Spyder. This is a follow up to that story, and I’m pleased to say it has a happy, almost Hollywood, ending.
After writing the above mentioned open letter, I was able to get in touch with some folks at Winnebago through social media and later by phone and email. What happened next was an example of the best type of customer support I have ever seen.
One of the guys in the Winnebago towables divison on the retail side followed up with me on a regular basis. [I’m not going to name him here because he’s busy enough already. If you need help, trust that the support system they have in place will work and read on to see why.] We had some phone conversations and I sent him a few pictures by email. He explained to me that, as I suspected, this was not the way they did things and assured me that he would make it right.
In the end, this is what most of us are seeking. If we are reasonable, we can understand that all of us make mistakes from time to time and when humans are involved in the building process (I’m a huge fan of hand made things nowadays – more on that in a minute) there will be some occasional mistakes. As long as we have an assurance that those mistakes can and will be corrected, we have solid piece of mind. This is especially true in the RV world. It’s a given that things will go wrong. There is a tradeoff for being able to travel around with a light weight version of your house, and realistically we can’t expect to have a 150 pound granite counter top with a granite kitchen sink in an RV.
Based on the number of issues I complained about and the type of things that were wrong, Winnebago offered to go over them with me in person. If I would bring the rig to them, they would go over it personally. I took them up on the offer.
As it turns out, Northern Indiana is even more beautiful and scenic than John Mellencamp says (although I didn’t spot any pink houses). It’s textbook middle America. I met with one of the gentlemen that had worked with me previously and we went through my list of concerns. He documented and took pictures. Not once did he dismiss anything I showed him or otherwise call me out on being wrong about my concerns. He just listened. I don’t expect that everything I showed him will be actually “fixed,” because there’s a good chance that I’m using it wrong or just confused. BUT, he didn’t bring any of that up. Instead, he promised to take every single thing I mentioned seriously.
And then something pretty cool happened. I’m sure he sensed that I had the wrong idea about how these RVs were built, so he offered to show me some of the process. It was fascinating. And it turns out that most of the Winnebago towables are built entirely by hand. I thought there were parts of the build that were done on an assembly line. Nope. The people building these campers do it almost completely from scratch. Is there anything more American that this? To have an RV, built in the Midwest, by people who can make a freaking house on wheels that will carry you, your family and a couple of motorcycles and look good doing it? I can’t think of a better example.
The construction is solid. Care and attention to detail are paramount. Even the aluminum framework (think of it like the studs behind the walls in your house) are filled with insulation, and by that I mean there is insulation inside the tubes that are inside the insulated walls. Take a minute and think about that… Everything is done from a perspective of long term experience and careful design consideration. The floor covering is one piece and then the cabinets and walls are installed on top. This helps with leaks. If you ever have one, the water won’t easily find a way into a seam on the floor like it would if they stopped the flooring at the edge of the cabinet.
It turns out that I had the wrong idea about some of the work that I perceived to be sloppy. What was more likely to be true was that some things were done improperly at the dealer level. There were a few things that Winnebago could have done differently but it turns out they have already made those changes to the next model year, and even went so far as to offer to implement a couple of those fixes for me.
This is how you win customers for life. In a time where businesses are forced to focus on the next day and the next sale to the next customer, it’s difficult to allocate resources and funds to a support group. Yet it can be one of the easiest ways to sell another product to an existing customer. And the best part is that you don’t even have to spend advertising dollars to do it. You already have access to the customer. In modern times, Apple has been a good example of this. Love them or hate them, but they have a reputation for excellent customer service. I’d say that plan worked out pretty well for them.
I grew up in and around RVs. I’ve been exposed to most brands. Because of this experience, the types of components used, the design style and most importantly the people, I can tell you that I have no interest in looking at anything other than a Winnebago from this point forward. If you are considering a new RV, you owe it to yourself to give Winnebago a long look. They were not the “cheapest” option in the class I considered, but then again, neither is Apple, and both of them have some pretty great things going. Your cheaply made alternative will end up costing you more down the road. And good luck getting this kind of help with someone else.