How Family-Owned and Operated Three Way Campers Keeps Customers Coming Back

three way campers

Rapid consolidations are changing the landscape of the RV market. But one family-owned and operated dealership is still going strong. Meet Three Way Campers.

Established all the way back in 1952, in Marietta, GA, the RV dealership has passed through the hands of four generations of the Porter family. They’re still operating out of the same location they started at. Their mission also remains the same: treat customers the same way they would want to be treated.

How do they do this? By taking a no-pressure approach to sales, with service after the sale being their primary objective.

Their brand of neighborhood dealership is becoming a rare gem in today’s market. We chatted with father-son team Jeff and Cody Porter to learn how they keep customers coming back over the years, even as they go up against big RV dealer conglomerates.

What do you think the value is of continuing to be an owner-operated dealership?

Jeff Porter: “There’s things that can be done when a customer comes in and has a problem with us being here every day. We’re able to make decisions right then and there. So, it gives us a leg up on some of the competition.

The other dealers, as they merge and acquire, they go from one or two locations to 50, 60, a hundred locations across the country. That’s a good selling feature for those other dealers. But when customers purchase, they still struggle with those big corporations a lot of times, with getting the service done that the customer expects.

I’m not saying that’s a shame to all these other dealers, because there’s some greatly run dealerships around. But their hands are tied by what they can and can’t do a lot of times. Whereas we can do what makes the most sense right then and there.”

With all the mergers happening, how are you planning to stay competitive in the future?

Jeff: “Planning for the future, with what we’re seeing with all the consolidation, probably the one single concern we have as an independent dealer is acquiring brands. I mean, we’ve been fortunate with the manufacturers that we deal with. We’ve got very long-standing relationships, and it has never been an issue up until this time.

But let’s say a new brand comes out. That’s where it can kind of be gobbled up by some of these corporate entities that are going to put a brand at all their different stores, versus us just here at one location. It’s not been an issue up until now, but that would be a concern for years down the road.

We want to watch our bottom line. We want to make sure that we’re making the money to sustain staying in business. Being number one isn’t a goal for us, as far as numbers are concerned. Our goal has just been the customers that we have and taking care of them.

How long have you been using IDS at your dealership? Where have you seen the biggest impact from using our software and services?

We use it on the sales side, and all our inventory, new and used units, are on IDS. It makes it real easy for us to print out paper copies for the salesman to use when they’re out on the lot.

Jeff: “I can tell you exactly: 2004 is when we started with IDS. We’ve been with IDS a long time and been very happy.

We use it on the sales side, and all our inventory, new and used units, are on IDS. It makes it real easy for us to print out paper copies for the salesman to use when they’re out on the lot. They can look down and reference what we have in inventory with all the information that’s needed. We do all our sales quotes in there—figuring trade-ins and stuff like that. We keep a great record of that. And then, it just transfers that stuff over to F&I for printing the contracts. The sales part is really good. It’s able to integrate over to our website. The parts department, they use it for their point of sale. You know, receiving, ordering, shipping service.”

I think one of the best parts about IDS is when I have a problem, the customer service is really, really, really good.

Cody Porter: “I think one of the best parts about IDS is when I have a problem, the customer service is really, really, really good. I think submitting a ticket online and then getting someone to call me and walk me through things has been the reason why I’m able to brag on IDS. I think any system, you run into things that you don’t know about or issues that you can’t resolve, and it’s been really easy for me to learn things and get through problems that need to be solved. I feel like I’ve got a pretty good grip on how to use IDS at this point.

I think the biggest thing is when I need to investigate something, like we have a customer on the phone, and he wants to know what he purchased five years ago. I know well enough where I can look that up, even if the customer has no idea what kind of unit he has or anything like that. If I can find them in our system through a customer, then I can track down if they bought a camper from us, if they had Work Orders done in service, if they purchased parts over the counter—I can find all that information.

Service to the customer is how we have stayed in business and how we will continue doing business. And I think IDS helps us so much with being able to take care of people when they have questions.

Like my dad said, service to the customer is how we have stayed in business and how we will continue doing business. And I think IDS helps us so much with being able to take care of people when they have questions. I have so many ways that I could get a question answered through using IDS, whether it be tracking it down via customer, via purchase order, via Work Order number, or who ordered it.”

Jeff, you mentioned IDS integrates your products with your website. Are you finding that more customers are shopping online?

Jeff: “Well, you know, I’ve been doing it for so long. Originally, when we first had a website, it was just an information page. At the time, we had no idea that it would be where people go to shop. Over time, you start putting your inventory on it so it’s just there and you can tell somebody, go to our website.

Well, now, people automatically go to the website–everyone’s shopping online. They look at all the dealer’s inventory, they look at inventory 500 miles away. It’s one of those things that’s really changed the sales part of things over the years.

Having the inventory online is a big deal and you know; having pictures and then having where they can click for more information, or to contact sales. I don’t have numbers of how many clicks we get as far as sales goes. But I know that what we’re doing is obviously working and we’re happy with it.

Many of your customers have been with you a long time. How do you keep them coming back?

Jeff: “I think customer loyalty would be number one. The way they come back to us because of our service and the way we treat people—that’s something that’s changing over time. With everything being online, if a customer bought RV insurance or they bought anything through a Camping World or anything like that’s Good Sam, then they start getting just bombarded with emails. So, they’re loyal to us, but then something pops up and it’s like, wow, that really looks good. Let’s go take a look. And they may buy from another dealer.

So, what we are starting to do with customer emails we gathered and put into IDS is to send monthly emails. We’ve never done it. We are looking at ways that we can start putting Three Way Campers’ name out in front of more customers than what we have in the past.”

Over the years, how has IDS helped you face challenges and changes happening in the market?

At any time we can look at a true profit and loss for the business and see what each department’s selling, what our bottom line is. We’ve been able to see trends through the years, to see, are we having a good year? Are we not having a good year?

Jeff: “On the unit sales side, it really gives us an idea of our profitability, our bottom line. Before we had the system, we thought we were making good money—and we were—but we weren’t accounting for so many different things. With IDS we were able to account for what our true cost was in selling a unit. From the time we bought the unit to the time we delivered the unit. That’s been huge.

At any time we can look at a true profit and loss for the business and see what each department’s selling, what our bottom line is. We’ve been able to see trends through the years, to see, are we having a good year? Are we not having a good year?

The way we run our dealership is all-in-one. Even though we have different profit centers, we’re looking at the bottom line. We don’t charge a lot back from one department to the other. We don’t have some of the structures that other dealerships have where it’s working against service or service is working against sales because each just costs each other. We all work hand-in-hand. So, we’re looking at that bottom line at the end of the day, and IDS has been able to do that for us. We’ve been very, very happy with that.

Being able to account for everything, any checks we write, anything we have to do—we can tie it back to a GL account and keep track of it.”

Do you have any final thoughts you would like to share?

That’s the biggest thing I think for us: being treated like we want to treat others. We feel like you guys do that for us.

Jeff: “When we bought the software back in 2004, someone from IDS actually came down here to the dealership and did a sales presentation, spent an afternoon, and we closed the deal. Which for us was really crazy. I was probably 35 years old and thought we had absolutely lost our mind spending that much money on computer software. But he told us then, ‘Look,’ he said, ‘It’ll make your money back in the long run.’ And he was right. It has.

Cody: “This is our 70th year in business—the same family, owned and operated, for 70 years. IDS has been a huge part of recent history. There’s fewer and fewer family businesses that are going to be around and IDS, it definitely treats us like it’s a small business, takes care of us the same way we try to take care of people. That’s the biggest thing I think for us: being treated like we want to treat others. We feel like you guys do that for us.”

IDS has been a trusted partner to RV dealers for over 30 years. Together, IDS has worked with customers to develop solutions to solve problems and help dealers thrive.

Interested in learning more about how IDS can help your dealership grow? Contact our sales team:

800-769-7425

You may also be interested in:

Don’t miss out!

Get the latest resources sent directly to your inbox.