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What started out in 1957 as a tiny dealership based out of a small town in Northwest Iowa is now in its third generation of owners, having proven itself to be a customer-friendly and forward-thinking business that defies expectations at every turn.
For instance, instead of relegating its website to a mere source of additional information for customers, like many other dealers today, Schaap’s RV Traveland treats it as the second storefront. The founder and original owner, Wallace Schaap, could not have possibly envisioned such a development back in ‘57, and yet, that’s exactly what the business needed to win over a new generation of customers.
Some things never change, however, as Schaap’s still earns most of its business through professionalism and great service.
We recently had the opportunity to speak to Wallace Schaap’s grand-daughter and current owner, Rachelle Schaap, about the dealership’s long history of success as well as its recent push into the online and mobile world.
Rachelle: “I am a third generation of family ownership, partnered with my uncle, Lyle Schaap. The dealership was started in 1957 by my grandfather, Wallace Schaap. My parents, Darrell and Twyla Schaap, were the ones who moved us from Iowa to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and grew us to the size we are today. My father, Darrell Schaap, started working for his father right out of high school and he spent his entire life building the business.
It’s a great tradition to have and an honor. We also feel a responsibility to have the business succeed today since the first two generations have worked so hard to build it. We cannot assume that customers will be loyal today just because they were to our parents or grandparents. With 61 years of history, we also realize the wisdom of still earning people’s respect and trust every day.”
Rachelle: “I would say that we are a little conservative. I prefer to ensure that any investment is something that is necessary, helpful and gets the job done. It’s important to provide my employees with the tools that they need, and technology is a big part of that.”
Rachelle: “Many years ago, I realized that I now have two locations: I have my bricks-and-mortar store and then I have my website – the “bricks” and the “clicks.” The website is the first door that our customers walk into – that’s the location where they first meet us.
We make it as functional, user-friendly and attractive as possible. Providing plenty of images and details is giving prospective customers what they want. If they’re interested enough, they will either call, email, text or walk in the door.
IDS feeds nightly into the site, so that any updates to our stock, whether it be new stock or a change in status, make their way to the website. It is really helpful, to have that automatically load regularly.”
Rachelle:“I think the website plays a big role at the beginning – when people are just thinking about buying. If you have a good website – it makes a big difference in sales. Technology is important, but you still need the people behind it in terms of customer service.
Our employees need to be great at taking care of prospective customers so that the good feeling they get from the website continues. It is rare to have someone walk in the door of our building who has not been online first.”
Rachelle: “We’ve been on IDS since 1994 – so 24 years. At the time, my parents were managing the dealership and we were getting bigger. Administration was done by hand – on paper, with carbon copies and handwritten notes. The oldest piece of paper that I have in the office is a note from 1956!
In IDS, we have history since the 90s – I can look up customers whose grandchildren are now buying from us. They will say, ‘My grandpa bought his fifth-wheel that he used to drive to Florida from you.’ And I can bring his record up in the system to get the details in case they want a similar model.”
Rachelle: “I feel that second-, third- and fourth-generation training gets watered down. When we first considered having an IDS trainer come down for fine-tuning and re-training, I wasn’t sure if we really needed it. Now I would totally recommend it. It was the best thing we ever did, and we may do it on a regular basis going forward.”
Rachelle: “The fact that it covers every single component of the business: from tracking newly delivered motor homes from the manufacturer, to selling a part, to keeping track of customers. Financials are also taken care of including payroll, payables and reports – it can do everything. The exports to the website and to RVTrader are also a real time-saver.”
Rachelle: “Our technicians recently got tablets. Before that, they used to punch tickets – they would punch in and out and rely on handwritten notes. Now they ‘talk-to-text’ their job notes, so they don’t have to write anything down, or type, for that matter – it’s amazing and they really appreciate it.
The parts department can do cycle counting on tablets as well. The service rep can go outside with a customer, do the walk-around and make additional notes about them digitally. They can take pictures and get the customer’s signature on the spot instead of having them coming back inside. It saves time for everyone.”
Rachelle: “Things have had to change and evolve at the dealership over the years, and IDS has helped us with that. It has led the way for us, so we can stay in tune with the times.”
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