12 RV Industry Women Share Their Tips for Success

Women in RV Industry

The RV industry has typically been a male-dominated one. But the times are changing and we’re seeing more women step into management roles at dealerships, manufacturers, dealer associations, and more.

We teamed up with the RV Women’s Alliance to ask RV industry women for their insights on the state of the RV industry today and how other women can succeed in their careers, based on their own experience. Here are their observations, insights, and tips for success.

Table of Contents (click to jump ahead to section):

IDS Women in RV Industry Infographic

In your experience in the RV industry, have you noticed any changes or new trends?

It’s an exciting time in the RV world – technological advancements and changes in customer demographics are just a couple of RV industry trends that are shaping the market.

1. RV buyers and buying habits are changing with the times

The RV industry has been changing rapidly over the past decade but never more so than now. RV vacationing has become widespread and holds a bigger appeal across multiple demographics, socioeconomic, cultural and age ranges. The RV industry has been steadily increasing awareness and appeal through social marketing campaigns, shows and the internet in general bringing a wider range of people into camping and RVing

We saw a much younger demographic buying RVs at our dealership pre-pandemic. With the onset of covid-19, the RV industry has absolutely exploded, with RVing being touted as a ‘safe vacation’ opportunity. People are no longer able to travel globally on family vacations. The demand has created a domino effect in many ways, supply chain disruptions being the biggest issue, but also price increases up to 30-40%.

The way a consumer purchases their RV has changed as well. For the most part, dealers do not have inventory readily available. As such, consumers are now buying their RV’s from product brochures, ordering an RV with several months build time as opposed to several weeks. Dealers have to work harder to establish trust and rapport with customers as the customer is making a large purchase and commitment with an expected wait time of 8-9 mons. As technology evolves, so does the RV industry with more sophisticated components being added to production rapidly as standard options in the build process.

Stacey Robinson, Dealer Principal at Great Canadian RV

So many changes the past few years! Half of our buyers are brand new to the RV industry. These customers require more attention, more training, and more service after the sale. The industry itself is moving towards more unique products, more off-road products, and more high-tech features.

PJ Buerger, Owner/GM at Princess Craft

 

IDS Women in RV Industry Jen Murphy

When Pottery Barn introduces a new line of accessories for the RV, you know that the RV buyer demographic is changing!

Jen Murphy, Account Manager at IDS

More first buyers, looking for lite unit under 3500 lbs and buyers looking for a sufficient unit with solar panels.

Josie Bédard, President at Roulottes Chaudière

 

IDS Shannon Boudreaux Women in RV Industry

Yes, customers have higher expectations and want solutions to be easy while being executed in a more timely and more efficient manner. That’s why it’s important to create an all-encompassing solution and have products and processes in place to support and exceed customer expectations. This will create a happy customer, which in turn creates a repeat customer.

Shannon Boudreaux, Director of Sales at Coach-Net

With the advent of social media, RVers are more connected than ever, not only with manufacturers and dealers but with each other as well. It’s easy to ask a question and get a wide variety of answers (some better than others). Some consumers love it, some find it overwhelming but either way the dealer has an important role to play in being a trusted source of information and helping our customers navigate through all the noise.

Related but a little different, managing all of the communication channels utilized by consumers today requires significant effort; twenty years ago a consumer would call, walk-in or maybe e-mail. Now, in addition to the more traditional methods we’ve added texting, online chat, social media messaging and comments, video chat and probably more I’m missing! A communication strategy is more important today than it ever was before.

Sarah Baptiste, CEO at Arrkann Trailer & RV

2. Women are stepping into male-dominated roles in the dealership

IDS Kimberly Schultz Women in RV Industry

In years past, most often the RV purchaser was the husband or a man. This is changing and there are a lot more women RV Owners. There are also a lot more women in the industry as a whole. Ten years ago, the ratio was probably 80-20 now it seems to be more like 60-40.

Kimberly Schultz, Director of Professional Services at IDS

Over the past few years, I have noticed that there are more women taking on the role of service manager. In the past years, it seemed only men filled the role of a service manager. I truly enjoy seeing women filling these positions—it makes me proud to be a woman in this industry.

Shaunna Tripanier, Professional Service Consultant at IDS

3. The RV industry is recovering from the pandemic

There have seen recent supply chain and labor improvements.

Most notably is the improvement in towable RV inventory both new and used. I expect towable inventory to be normalized on a national level by the end of Q1. Motorized will be challenged for a while longer however we’re happy to at least have the towables.

More people are applying to join our team and there has been a slight improvement in repair parts availability.

Best of all is that customer demand remains strong. More people have discovered the freedom and affordability of RVing.

Debbie Brunoforte, President at Little Dealer Little Prices

 

What should RV dealers do to provide better service to customers in the year ahead?

Customer service expectations are higher than ever and because of that, RV businesses need to find ways to cut down on inefficiencies and leverage technology.

1. Now is the time to invest in a customer experience strategy

IDS Stacey Robinson Women in RV Industry

The onus is on the dealership to align a clear and consistent customer experience strategy to allow for transparency and effective communication with the customer, internally and with the manufacturer.

With longer wait times and longer builds the gap between when a purchase has been made and the actual delivery of the RV is significant. The customer needs to feel informed and current, as opposed to lost in the process.

Constant communication with the manufacturer will allow for timely updates to the customer and best practice communication strategies within the dealership will assist in providing a seamless and confident experience for the customer.

Never before has it been more important to communicate effectively both internally and externally. Dealerships will need to develop policy and strategies to accomplish their own best practices not only in sales but also in service as we as an industry struggle with parts supply chain issues and enforcing Covid protocols.

Stacey Robinson, Dealer Principal at Great Canadian RV

 

IDS PJ Buerger Women in RV Industry

Train technicians, streamline procedures, and above all, focus on customer service and communication. Many customers today are new to the industry and expect service departments to run like the car dealership. They want quick responses once they bring their unit in and regular communication. With the volume that we are expecting in the next few years, that will be a challenge for so many dealerships. To support customer expectations, the process of managing a service ticket needs to be nailed down, and there have to be enough trained technicians to manage the workload. Always a big challenge!

PJ Buerger, Owner/GM at Princess Craft

2. Dealers should leverage technology to improve service efficiency

IDS Kimberly Schultz Women in RV Industry

Find ways to assist customers remotely: coming up with ways to sell a unit remotely, coming up with mobile service to go to the owner vs. them coming into the dealership for service, and hosting your parts online for sale.

Kimberly Schultz, Director of Professional Services at IDS

 

IDS Jen Murphy Women in RV Industry

Some of the things we were forced to adapt to will now be the new normal. We need to continue to expand upon contactless customer interactions from Sales to Service and everything in between.

Jen Murphy, Account Manager at IDS

 

IDS Chardell Brydon Women in RV Industry

It’s almost hard to keep up with the new technology being offered in many of today’s RVs! I’ve been in this business for 34 years and for many years it seemed as though appliances and components stayed the same with very little change. The advanced technology was used primarily in top-end lines. In recent years, however, the RV industry has grown by leaps and bounds. Now even the more basic travel trailers are equipped with solar technology and new features like smart RV control systems. No more is there any lifting or lighting pilots. Everything is done by the push of a button. It’s awesome to see our industry keeping pace.

Chardell Brydon, Business Manager at Jerry’s RV Trailer Sales & Service Ltd

3. Communication between team members and your customers is essential

IDS Shaunna Tripanier Women in RV Industry

Communication is key! The service departments in the RV industry have been incredibly busy over the past couple of years. Parts are hard to find, which can make your day-to-day incredibly overwhelming. Communicating with the customers to keep them up to date with the status of their parts or the time for turnaround goes a long way.

Keep smiling!

Shaunna Tripanier, Professional Service Consultant at IDS

We should train our customer to take care of their unit and strongly suggest they do an inspection every year. Every dealer should have an inspection plan offer.

Josée Bédard, President at Roulottes Chaudière

 

IDS Chardell Brydon Women in RV Industry

Good communication is critical within our dealership, as well as with our customers. Accurate and timely information relayed can save much frustration. Especially considering the shortages of product for both sales and components needed in the service departments we need to keep customers in the loop if we have delays. They will appreciate that you have their best interests at heart instead of thinking we are just being negligent.

Chardell Brydon, Business Manager at Jerry’s RV Trailer Sales & Service Ltd

 

IDS Shannon Boudreaux Women in RV Industry

Make the process more streamlined for the customer, the easier you can make it for them the better experience they will have overall. Be transparent and set clear expectations. This will help create a relationship of trust and the customer will continue to have confidence in your process.

Shannon Boudreaux, Director of Sales at Coach-Net

4. A great customer experience starts from the inside, within your team

IDS Debbie Bruonoforte Women in RV Industry

The right culture and team are key to providing a great customer experience. The right culture requires intention and leadership. Otherwise, the culture that will develop may not be the one you want. Even with a great team and culture, it’s hard, especially the past couple years.

Debbie Brunoforte, President at Little Dealer Little Prices

 

IDS Sarah Baptiste Women in RV Industry

To truly understand what ‘better service’ means you need to listen to what your customers are saying to know where you’re excelling and where you’re falling short. Someone has to be accountable for doing that listening work, identifying the process improvements required and implementing them to provide the service customers asked for. If everyone is responsible for this, no one can be truly accountable, and it will be much more difficult to implement improvements that are truly meaningful from a customer perspective.

There is no one thing that every RV dealer should do, it will be a little different for everyone depending on where their current strengths and weaknesses lie. Providing better service often means facing some uncomfortable truths, thinking a little differently and rallying the team to get behind change – not a quick or easy process.

Sarah Baptiste, CEO at Arrkann Trailer & RV

What is one piece of advice you would like to give other women in the RV industry?

Women in the RV industry can benefit from creating a network for providing expertise, support, and opportunities.

1. Trust in your expertise and unique perspective

IDS Lori Stacy Women in RV Industry

My one piece of advice is to push aside any concerns that you are not valuable because you don’t look like everyone else in the industry. Instead, view this as a positive that you can bring a perspective that is unique from others and that drives innovation. That is how you add value and once you do that, you will be taken seriously.

Lori Stacy, CEO at Trader Interactive

 

IDS Stacey Robinson Women in RV Industry

The absolute biggest piece of advice I would give is to ask for insight as to why things are done the way they are. The RV industry has been a male-dominated industry for a very long time, with a large number of multigenerational dealerships. Often, processes are followed because ‘that is the way it has always been done.’ Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box, and to re-visit processes often.

Stacey Robinson, Dealer Principal at Great Canadian RV

 

IDS PJ Buerger Women in RV Industry

Know your job, know your worth, and advocate for your success. Establish yourself as the authority in your line of work. When problems need to be solved or goals need to be met, be sure you are ready to contribute.

PJ Buerger, Owner/GM at Princess Craft

 

IDS Shaunna Tripanier Women in RV Industry

Things are changing, people are more accepting of women working in the RV service industry. If you have the knowledge, run with it, and work hard. You will not always be accepted by everyone, but do not let that discourage you from doing what you love.

Shaunna Tripanier, Professional Service Consultant at IDS

 

IDS Josee Bedard Women in RV Industry

For me this is an easy one: if you do the job then it doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman. Be yourself.

Josée Bédard, President at Roulottes Chaudière

My advice to other women in the RV industry is to accept that it has been a very male-dominated industry. Be patient. You are not invisible, and you will be recognized for your knowledge in the industry eventually.

I remember going to Louisville back when we were just getting into selling new trailers about 10 years ago, looking for lines. If I was by myself, it was very difficult to get anyone to talk with me. I was just a woman looking at trailers, but if I were to visit displays with my husband (business partner), we would get approached to see if we were interested in more information. After a while they knew that I was the one making those decisions and was taken more seriously.

 

IDS Debbie Bruonoforte Women in RV Industry

Debbie Brunoforte, President at Little Dealer Little Prices

IDS Sarah Baptiste Women in RV Industry

Be confident in who you are, the skills you bring to the table and value of your perspective. Find a leadership style that is authentic to you while enabling you and your team to grow. I’ve spoken with many young women coming up in the dealership environment that are struggling to find their place partly because they have an underlying fear that they just aren’t ‘good enough’ and ironically almost every time they are excelling in their role. You need to look for your own wins, celebrate your successes and believe in yourself. It sounds very cliché, but it’s true!

Sarah Baptiste, CEO at Arrkann Trailer & RV

2. Build a network that supports your growth

IDS Kristina Shrider Women in RV Industry

I can’t stress enough importance for each woman in the industry to build a network of other women to talk and consult with. The network should include peers and mentors. Find women who have the experiences you have, who are in the same or similar roles in the industry—as well as more senior women who have been there before you and can help you avoid the pitfalls. Look for confident leaders with emotional intelligence who will inspire you and help you to grow in every positive way.

To find your Mentors, you can join women networks like RVWA or join smaller coworking groups in RVEMastermind. But don’t forget to spend time building a support system within your dealership by developing a strong professional relationship with your manager and others on your team at the dealership. These people can help you get the resources that you need.

Kristina Shrider, CMO at Giant Recreation World, Inc.

This question gives me pause as I don’t want to preach or act like I know it all. Since asked, I will share my opinion.

Cherish and continually improve your mind and body. Cherish means to protect and care for someone lovingly. Often, we don’t treat ourselves this way, but we should and with practice it becomes habit. We can all do more than we think we can. It begins with the belief that we can, followed by the health, drive and passion to put it the required effort.

Debbie Brunoforte, President at Little Dealer Little Prices

Be an expert in your field, and lean on others for education, support, and growth. There are many inspiring women in this industry to help guide you whether you are new to the industry or just trying to expand your knowledge and growth. If you haven’t already joined RVWA, I highly recommend you do so. It is a great channel where women can connect with each other in this space.

Shannon Boudreaux, Director of Sales at Coach-Net

A bright future for the RV Industry

The changes and processes we put in place today will shape the industry tomorrow. Thank you to all the women who shared their insights—as the saying goes, we stand on the shoulders of giants!

Interested in learning more RV industry trends and statistics? Read this next.

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