Ketelsen began as small RV business in 1962 on the family farm when Johnny Ketelsen wanted a camper. In order to get one at the right price he had to buy several. Johnny turned around and sold the remaining campers to his buddies and the business was born. Now it’s one of Iowa’s largest RV dealerships.
We sat down with Vice President, Jeremy Ketelsen to discuss the history of the dealership and what steps they’ve taken to grow into one of the premiere dealerships in Iowa.
IDS: Your dealership has a lot of history. Can you tell us how it’s evolved?
Jeremy: “When my grandfather began the business, it was on the family farm in Marion, IA. It progressed from there to another place in Marion where they were able to start a service department, parts department and eventually a sales department. A lot of business operations at that time were run out of shoebox with receipts and purchase agreements. Believe it or not, a lot of deals were written up on napkins which eventually progressed to handwritten service tickets and then formal purchase agreements. The business just kept continuing to grow.
Now we’ve moved the dealership from Marion to Hiawatha and during that move we implemented the original IDS Astra product. It was a big overtaking at that time. We’ve grown from having a couple of salesmen and a couple of techs to having several techs, parts individuals and salesmen along with managers in each department. Now we can keep track and have transparency that we once had out of the shoebox.”
IDS: What do you consider to be the strength of your business compared to other RV dealers in your area?
Jeremy: “Even though we’re larger, we still have that personal touch that we originated from. Keeping the customer in mind and their experience sets us apart.”
IDS: What prompted you to choose IDS as a management tool when looking for a software system?
Jeremy: “The dealership began using IDS way before my time. I think it was back in the late 90s when we made the transition from paper to the ‘Blue Screen.’ The support we’ve gotten through the years has been great. They’ve also helped us make this transition from the ‘Blue Screen’ to Astra G2, which has greatly increased our efficiency here. When we have questions, we are able to talk to somebody and they have jumped right in and helped. The products are very good and are always improving. Not only we are trying to improve, but it’s nice to see that our partners are improving too.”
IDS: You mentioned the transition to G2. How long have you been using G2 and what challenges in your business prompted you to move in that direction?
Jeremy: “We made the transition in the fall of 2012. It was put off for awhile because of the stigma that it was going to be a scary adventure. We decided at that time that we would bite off as much as we could chew, but we were a little apprehensive because change is always difficult. We found that through the support and everybody’s positive outlook, it went even better than expected.”
IDS: Now that you’re experienced with the G2 system, what features have helped your dealership?
Jeremy: “The Service Scheduler is awesome! Going into it, we thought the service personnel would be the hardest to transition because they tend to shy away from change, but the transparency we now have has been a great benefit to customer interactions.
CRM has been a great product. It’s kept front-of-mind awareness for each sales individual. First the salespeople had the perception that we were going to use it as a tool to watch them. They soon found out that it was a tool to effectively make their job more efficient. They really utilize the product to stay in contact with their customers for not only days, but also months down the road.”
Watch a quick video to see how Ketelsen RV has streamlined its service operation with IDS Service Scheduler:
IDS: Can you tell me a little bit about how the Service Scheduler works and how it’s improved your daily operations?
Jeremy: “In the past, we would go to an Outlook type calendar, make an appointment and add notes to that appointment. If a customer came in, we would have to search around trying to find where, what, who made the appointment and what the customers concerns, needs and wants were. We were always trying to figure out what was going on with no real view into the past.
We also eliminated the need to rely on service tickets. In the past, a ticket was the hub of everything. It was a chunk of gold wandering around and could easily get lost. The G2 system enables us to make appointments in certain calendars and distinguish what calendar we want to make that appointment in based upon the customer’s wants and needs with their history right there. When the customer shows up, we no longer have to manually input everything. We can convert it to a work order and dispatch it immediately.
Our communication has greatly improved. If the customer calls and wants to know the status of their unit, we’re able to see what has been done and it’s clean information because it’s typed. Sales also has visibility. If an individual wants to trade in their unit, we are able to see what’s been done on the service end prior to making the deal.”
IDS: How long have you been using CRM and what features do you like best about it?
Jeremy: “We implemented CRM last April. With the support that we received from IDS, we were able to implement it quickly and as positively as we possibly could. The salesmen look at it as a benefit of the front-of-mind awareness. They’re able to plan their day, which was something they’d been trying to do themselves on an individual basis for a long time. From a marketing standpoint, it’s also fantastic.”
IDS: Have sales increased since you’ve implemented CRM?
Jeremy: “Sales have increased and we’re going home every day knowing that we did all that we could and that we’re not missing something because of not knowing.
We have automated emails that are generated though the system and each salesman is responsible for their automated follow-up. It’s based on an individual basis and they are able to add individual touches to their messaging, which is something they really wanted. The dealership itself also has automated emails that go out for thank you notes, birthdays, etc.”
IDS: How do you go about building your CRM database?
Jeremy: “With the CRM, gathering email addresses and having an outlet to input the information has been great. In the past, we were gathering email addresses and adding them to an Excel file, which we rarely utilized. During our shows, we’d collect email addresses and we didn’t have a place to put them. Now we do. With CRM and G2, we are able to easily utilize this data and send out newsletters that can be tracked with our customers’ fingerprint. It’s been a huge benefit.”
IDS: How much has your contact base grown?
Jeremy: “When we started early last year, our contact base was 800 and now it’s in the 4,000 range. We’re still working on building the list and it grows every day.”
IDS: Can you talk a little bit about your recent email blasts?
Jeremy: “We found out that people want to hear from us. This is their hobby and they really enjoy opening up what we send them. We have a lot of positive feedback. They truly want to hear from us, which is a huge eye-opener for us. In the past the perception was that we didn’t want to bother them, and now we’ve discovered they want this information.”
IDS: Can you give a couple examples of the content you provide?
Jeremy: “We have a Camping Club where we post our itineraries and show the fun we have throughout the year. Our audience really enjoys looking at it. I look at it as not only can we use it for the fun stuff, but also utilize it to educate our customers on what really happens in the RV industry. We haven’t done a great of job of educating and this is a great way to educate on an affordable basis.”
IDS: On average, what kind of open rate do you see?
Jeremy: “We’re seeing an open rate of 30-45%. The click through rate in that same area, depending on the message. We learn every time we send a message what people click on and what people don’t like to click on.”
IDS: How many opt-outs?
Jeremy: “We had roughly 20 opt-outs, which isn’t too many. There are not a lot of un-subscribers.”
IDS: What future goals do you have for the dealership and how will IDS help you to achieve them?
Jeremy: “The goal here is to always grow customer service and we have the resources in place now to help us do that. If we grow our customer service and communicate with customers the way they want to be communicated with, our sales of units, parts and service will continue to grow.”