Selling recreational vehicles has always been a largely fragmented business, with many small chains and mom-and-pops, often representing multiple brands, appealing to RV customers across various geographies. But Blue Compass RV aims to create a strong national brand by consolidating its 100 stores in 33 states under a single umbrella and developing a distinct and standardized approach to match.
“We’ve got an opportunity to create a powerful retail brand around an exceptional customer experience, and with our geographic footprint and how RVers travel from coast to coast, we have the opportunity to touch most RVers in America with our brand and store footprint,” said Jon Ferrando, CEO of Blue Compass, based in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., formerly RV Retailer.
In just four years, Ferrando has built the organization into the second-largest RV retailer in America, behind Camping World, along the way consolidating more than 20 regional store brands into a single brand.
“We’re building relationships with the customer so we can be there for them, and we have the geographic footprint to back it up,” Ferrando told me. “RVers travel all over the country. We can service you wherever your travel takes you, [addressing] an industry challenge that goes back decades.”
While Blue Compass dealerships sell many brands of RVs, Ferrando said he’s building the brand in large part on a strong service experience. “The service side of this business is a challenge, and we’re trying to build a powerful brand around providing that peace of mind,” he said. “The practical reality as you go across the industry there can be a significant wait time to get in for service for a number of reasons, including the supply chain and parts availability.”
To overcome such obstacles, Blue Compass is investing heavily in training certified service technicians, Ferrando said. The company has about 850 such employees nationwide already, and his goal is to add more than 200 certified technicians this year.
Toward that goal, the company spent millions of dollars a few years ago to build three training centers, one each in Texas, Utah and North Carolina. Blue Compass also conducts a mentorship program for technicians. “We take detailers or fork-lift drivers and promote them into our tech-mentor program, and after several months they can advance,” Ferrando said. “It’s a substantial investment for us and a long-term focus for building up loyal, qualified, certified, skilled technicians.”
Blue Compass also is “working on a number of initiatives with OEMs to make service a win-win so we can get things done more quickly,” Ferrando said. These include efforts to obtain preauthorized approvals for warranty work. “Traditionally,” he explained, “you spend a lot of time going back and forth to get these approvals, and it can be a very manual process. You may take a picture of a part that’s broken and send it to the OEM to get [warranty] work approved in advance. Now, a number of companies are working with us to provide pre-authorization of those things. We’re building a new level of trust and having a green light to do the work, and it turns out to be a win-win. It’s faster for the customer, and there’s less friction in the system.”