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Extended Service Agreements Q&A with Bill Koster

September 29, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

Editor’s Note: In recent months, the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) has received complaints from several dealers and consumers about payment policies from certain service agreement companies. One service agreement company, Heritage Administrative Services, has had many complaints filed against it with consumer protection agencies in Ohio, as well as in other states. To get a perspective on what is happening in the service agreement industry, RVDA Vice President for Communications Phil Ingrassia, talked to Bill Koster, vice president RV & Specialty Products, Protective Asset Protection Division in St. Louis. RVDA has exclusively endorsed Protective’s XtraRide program since 1992. Koster currently serves on the RVDA Education Foundation Board of Directors as secretary/treasurer and received RVDA’s Chairman Service award in 2008. This interview appears in the current issue of RV Executive Today.

RV Executive Today: One of the reasons that RVDA endorsed Protective in 1992 was that there was some upheaval in the service agreement industry in the late 1980s and early 90s and the Board of Directors was looking for a stable company that dealers and their customers could depend upon for service agreement protection. Are we seeing a similar period of instability today?

Bill Koster: I believe we are in a similar period. Service agreement companies must defer their administration fees for up to seven years. Those who do not adequately defer must rely on increases in business to offset the deficiency.

When production declines, weaker companies are exposed and are immediately forced to “tighten the screws,” breaking protocol, which often negatively impacts customer service.

RV Executive Today: Do some of the companies that we are hearing complaints about have anything in common?

Koster: It may be unmerited to paint every company with the same brush, but two things appear to be common: (a) net dealer cost rates that are abnormally low relative to the competition and (b) the utilization of risk retention groups (RRGs) opposed to insurance companies.

I am astounded at the number of new companies that endeavor to “buy their way into the market” in an effort to establish market share. It takes at least seven years for a firm to ascertain the knowledge to price a seven year service agreement, yet companies continue to be aggressive by under-pricing their product. The shortfall will ultimately be exposed.

I’ve never been a fan of RRGs in the service agreement industry. RRGs were initially created for product liability insurance and have somehow evolved to address all forms of casualty exposures. RRGs do not have to play by the same filing rules as insurance companies and are exposed to less state regulation. I believe we will start to see some states adopt greater financial responsibility regulations thereby making it virtually impossible for an RRG to operate in the states.

RV Executive Today: Some of the situations RVDA hears about are very emotional for the customer and then the dealer gets dragged into a very unpleasant situation. A customer pays hundreds of dollars for an agreement, has a problem, and either never gets paid . . . or the claim is rejected. Can you explain how Protective’s XtraRide program can give dealers and customers peace of mind?

Koster: All our service agreements (with the exception of two states) are administrator obligor. The XtraRide service agreement is actually a contract between the retail customer and Protective. Customers are assured, in writing; Protective will stand behind the service agreement regardless of the disposition of the dealer. Owning our administrator is a benefit as well. We don’t have to worry about how a third party administrator (TPA) may handle the claim.

Secondly, we have always taken the position that the customer may have been a victim of some extraordinary circumstances that may have adversely impacted the situation. While our claim adjusters are seasoned professionals and are paid to pay (or deny) the claim according to the service contract, we have paid goodwill claims due to the unusual claim conditions.

RV Executive Today: If a dealer feels that a company is changing their coverage or payment policies without notice, what can, or should, they do about it?

Koster: The first line of defense is the dealer agreement. If the agreement expressly states an obligation, the service agreement company should be held responsible under the agreement’s terms and conditions.

Many dealer agreements now provide for arbitration, a relatively quick and inexpensive way to resolve disputes. Additionally, if the service agreement company has established a precedent in the way claims have been adjudicated, dealers may have a cause of action.

I would urge dealers who believe they have been wronged to act promptly, formally file a complaint, and then immediately locate another service agreement provider. An abrupt adjustment in the claims handling process by the service agreement company is usually a symptom of a larger problem and the service agreement company may not be around long enough, or be financially able, to rectify the situation.

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RV Business Announces 2009 Top 50 Dealer Awards

August 31, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

rvbtop50logo-smallRV Business today (Aug. 31)  has announced selections for the 2nd Annual RV Business Top 50 Dealer Awards, which are based on the nominations of North American RV manufacturers and are to be presented on the evening of Wed., Oct. 7, at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas during the annual RV Dealers International Convention/Expo.

A volunteer panel of industry veterans concluded its review of dealer applications on Aug. 21 at the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Ind., keeping a keen eye on dealers’ overall focus on professionalism, association activities, civic involvement, best practices and consumer care.

Above all, RVB Publisher Sherman Goldenberg maintains, the mission of the Top 50 program is to continue to remind individual dealers – and the industry at large – of the intent and specific recommendations of the Go RVing Coalition’s Committee on Excellence and, beyond that, to give attendees at the Recreation Vehicle Dealer Association’s (RVDA) Con/Expo a chance to relax and reflect on a year that was trying at best.

“We had an overwhelming response from our manufacturer nominees this year,” said Goldenberg. “The number of applicants received was about 40% more than what we had in 2008. Before judging even started, we considered this year’s program a success, and that was largely due to the many quality dealerships submitting applications. Because there were so many worthy RV dealers who applied, it was a much more difficult selection process this time around, and, unfortunately, we weren’t able to include everyone who applied.”

“The judges did take a very good look at all the application materials dealers sent in, and it was a very close race,” adds BJ Thompson, president of BJ Thompson Associates Inc., whose Mishawaka, Ind.-based agency oversees the application process for RVB. “We encourage all participating dealers, whether they were selected or not, to reapply next year.”

RVB Top 50 dealers are not ranked, although 10 Blue Ribbon retailers are singled out for special recognition. In addition, a Dave Altman Award for lifetime achievement in RV retailing and exceptional corporate citizenship will also be presented to one of the Blue Ribbon dealers at this year’s RVBT50 dinner at which Fox News contributor Mike Huckabee, the former — and possibly future — Republican presidential candidate  will be keynote speaker.

“Given the current national political climate and the ongoing debate between the two political parties — and the ways in which these debates directly impact the recreational vehicle industry  — we consider Mr. Huckabee an excellent and thought-provoking choice for an enjoyable evening in Las Vegas,” said Goldenberg. “And that goes for industry people of all political persuasions.”

The following U.S. and Canadian retailers are the recipients of the 2009 RV Business Top 50 Dealer Awards (in unranked, alphabetical order):

  •      Aberdeen RV Center, Aberdeen, MS
  •      Aloha RV, Albuquerque, NM
  •      Altman’s Winnebago, Carson, CA
  •      American RV, Grand Rapids, MI
  •      Apache Village RV Center, Hazelwood, MO
  •      ArrKann Trailer & RV Centre, Edmonton, AB
  •      Beckley’s Camping Center, Thurmont, MD
  •      Big Country RV, Bend, OR
  •      Bill Plemmons RV World, Rural Hall, NC
  •      Boat N RV Superstores, Rockwood, Tenn.
  •      Can-Am RV Centre, London, ON
  •      Carolina Coach & Camper, Claremont, NC
  •      Coachlight RV, Carthage, MO
  •      Coates Trailer Sales, Columbus, MN
  •      Colonial Airstream, Lakewood, NJ
  •      Crown RV, Conyers, GA
  •      Curtis Trailers, Portland, OR
  •      Dandy RV Superstore, Anniston, AL
  •      Dixie RV Superstore, Newport News, VA
  •      Dodd RV, Yorktown, VA
  •      General RV, Wixom, MI
  •      Giant RV, Montclair, CA
  •      Greeneway Campers, Wisconsin Rapids, WI
  •      Guaranty RV, Junction City, OR
  •      Hilltop Trailer Sales, Fridley, MN
  •      Ketelsen Campers of Colorado, Wheat Ridge, CO
  •      Kings Campers, Wausaw, WI
  •      Lazydays RV Supercenter, Seffner, FL
  •      Little Dealer Little Prices, Phoenix, AZ
  •      Mike Thompson’s RV Super Stores, Santa Fe Springs, CA
  •      Modern Trailer Sales, Anderson, IN
  •      Mount Comfort RV, Greenfield, IN
  •      Parkview RV, Smyrna, DE
  •      PleasureLand RV Centers, St. Cloud, MN
  •      Poulsbo RV, Kent, WA
  •      Quality RV, Draper, UT
  •      Reines RV Center, Manassas, VA
  •      Richardson’s RV, Sun City, CA
  •      Rick’s RV Center, Joliet, IL
  •      Roy Robinson RV, Marysville, WA
  •      RV America Inc., Johnstown, CO
  •      Steinbring Motorcoach, Garfield, MN
  •      Tennessee RV Sales & Service, Knoxville, TN
  •      Terrell Camping Center, Terrell, NC
  •      Thompson Family RV, Davenport, IA
  •      Tom Johnson’s Camping Center, Marion, NC
  •      Topper’s Camping Center, Waller, TX
  •      Trafford’s RV, Center Conway, NH
  •      Veurinks’ RV Center, Grand Rapids, MI
  •      Woody’s RV World, Red Deer, AB

Building on last year’s format, which appears to have worked rather well for those involved, RV Business Top 50 Dealer Award honorees will be promoted in the national press, in dealers’ hometown newspapers and in the pages and websites — of Affinity’s trade and consumer magazines: RV Business, Trailer Life, MotorHome, Highways, Coast to Coast and Camping Life.

Underwriting this year’s program are Platinum co-sponsors ADP Lightspeed, Salt Lake City, UT; Blue Ox, Pender, NE; Coach-Net, Lake Havasu, AZ; Cummins Onan, Minneapolis, MN.; Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp., Gaffney, SC, RV Trader and RVTraderOnline.com, Norfolk, VA, and Ultra-Fab Products, Elkhart, IN, while Protective Asset Protection Division, Chesterfield, MO, is a Gold sponsor.

Tickets for the $120-a-plate dinner ($99 for RVDA members, Con/Expo exhibitors and Top 50 dealer guests) are available through RVBUSINESS.com’s registration link (http://www.rvbusiness.com/top-50-dealer-awards/2009-registration-form/).

“All in all, we can’t imagine that anyone attending the RVDA Con/Expo wouldn’t want to take the opportunity to mix with Mr. Huckabee and their industry peers at the cocktail party prior to our dinner and to hear Mr. Huckabee speak on the hot topics of the day at the dinner itself, regardless of their political persuasion,” said Goldenberg. “And, of course, we’ll honor our dealers, one by one, at the dinner as well, giving everyone a chance to reflect on the professionalism for which we’re trying to help raise the bar in this industry.”

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Huckabee Highlighting RVB Top 50 Dealer Awards

August 7, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

 

Mike Huckabee

Mike Huckabee

Despite the headwinds of 2009, RVBusiness is turning the corner on the second annual RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Awards after having gone to manufacturers earlier this year for nominations of their best dealers in terms of consumer care, civic involvement and general professionalism.

A number of applications are in hand and a host of nominated retailers, as has been the case for so many business people this year, are currently scrambling to submit theirs. “I can report at this point that things are going well,” says RVBusiness Publisher Sherman Goldenberg, who is overseeing the second annual RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Awards program on behalf of the industry’s flagship trade journal. “And we’ll continue to flex with the times and bend that deadline to get as many of those last-minute applications as we can before turning them over later this month for review by our panel of experts.”

The Top 50, like last year, will be not be ranked in any sort of order, says Goldenberg, but will be presented as a group in alphabetical order at a reception and dinner at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas on the evening of Wednesday, Oct. 7, during the annual RV Dealers International Convention/Expo, sponsored by the Fairfax, Va.-based Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA).  But five of the Top 50 will receive special recognition as Blue Ribbon dealers and one above the rest receives the Dave Altman Award, which goes to an exceptional corporate citizen.

 Appearing as keynote speaker at this year’s dinner is former – and possibly future – Republican presidential candidate and Fox News contributor Mike Huckabee, who will more than likely have a few things to say about the current economic and political landscape.

“All in all, we can’t imagine that anyone attending the RVDA Con/Expo wouldn’t want to take the opportunity to mix with Mr. Huckabee and their industry peers at the cocktail party prior to our dinner and to hear Mr. Huckabee speak on the hot topics of the day at the dinner itself, regardless of their political persuasion,” said Goldenberg. “And, of course, we’ll honor our dealers, one by one, at the dinner as well, giving everyone a chance to reflect on the professionalism for which we’re trying to help raise the bar in this industry.”

The bottom line of the Top 50 program, he maintained, is to continue to remind individual dealers – and the industry at large – of the intent and specific recommendations of the Go RVing Coalition’s Committee on Excellence.

 “I don’t think there is ever a bad time to be talking about excellence and customer service and treating people right, especially customers,” said BJ Thompson, president of BJ Thompson Associates, the Mishawaka, Ind., agency that is again working with RVBusiness on the Top 50. “So, whether it’s a good economy or a bad economy, this is a good program and helpful to the industry.”

Underwriting this year’s program are RVB’s “Leadership Alliance” sponsors for 2009, including “Platinum” co-sponsors ADP Lightspeed, Salt Lake City, Utah; Blue Ox, Pender, Neb.; Coach-Net, Lake Havasu, Ariz.; Cummins Onan, Minneapolis, Minn.; Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp., Gaffney, S.C., RV Trader and RVTraderOnline.com, Norfolk, Va., and Ultra-Fab Products, Elkhart, Ind., while Protective Asset Protection Division, Chesterfield, Mo., is a “Gold” sponsor.

Tickets for the $120-a-plate dinner ($99 for RVDA members and Con/Expo exhibitors) are available through RVBUSINESS.com’s registration link (http://www.rvbusiness.com/top-50-dealer-awards/2009-registration-form/).

Online versions of the applications can be downloaded by linking directly to http://www.rvbusiness.com/top-50-dealer-awards/2009-top-50-dealer-application/

Building on last year’s format, which appears to have worked rather well for those involved, RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Award honorees will be promoted in the national press, in dealers’ hometown newspapers and in the pages – and on the websites — of Affinity’s trade and consumer magazines, RVBusiness, Trailer Life, MotorHome, Highways, Coast to Coast and Camping Life.

However, publicity is only part of the incentive for participating in this bar-raising national promotion, says Thompson.  “In talking with different size dealers last year, whether they be small, medium or large-size dealers,” said Thompson, “we did get some distinctly different responses. The smaller dealers were surprised that they were genuinely in the running to be recognized for their attention to customer satisfaction. They appreciated having the opportunity to be recognized for their hard work and their investment in customer service.

“The medium and larger dealers seemed to have their own unique set of issues in assuring good customer service and excellence in their operations,” added Thompson, who will be joined in hosting the event by Jim Sheldon, a Monaco RV LLC executive and current chairman of Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). “Because they were larger, they weren’t able to have that one-on-one experience as principals because of their size. It was a unique challenge to them to drive down their values to the people in their dealer operations who were working with customers, whether it was sales or service or otherwise. It would take a lot of work and investment on their part to have that personalized service on a larger scale. So, to be recognized for actually accomplishing excellence on a larger scale for them was also satisfying.”

Leveling the playing field again this year is the fact that larger multi-store retailers, regardless of how many locations they have, can have only one store recognized in the RVBusiness Top 50 Dealer Award program.

“It was satisfying for those of us who were involved in the development of the program to see that most dealers were genuinely appreciative of having the spotlight put on them,” added Thompson, current chairman of RVIA’s Public Relations Committee. “I think it’s always a good thing to put a spotlight on people who are doing things right and doing them well. Recognizing outstanding achievement in customer service and dealer operations not only lifts the dealership, but when they are spotlighted and shown off to the world, it lifts up the entire industry.”

 

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