“Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the client or customer gets out of it.” ~Peter Drucker
Before trading for our current 2016 Vanleigh Vilano 365RL coach we’d been through a fairly long search process in the effort to replace/upgrade our 2014 Alpine 5th Wheel. We knew we wanted a rear living model with lots of storage, comfortable furniture, a decent bath/shower, functional kitchen, flat slide floors and if possible, an open contemporary feel that would live well. We wanted all of this in a package that wasn’t over 39ft long or had a GVWR over 16500lbs and, of course, had an attractive price.
We’d looked at many makes and models. Many of them reputed to be best for full-time RV’ers, and many that were well above our comfortable budget level, but not one addressed the majority of our needs and wants. Not once did we walk into one and say to ourselves…“This could be it.” We began to think that perhaps our “wish list” was asking too much. That is until we checked out the Vilano. From the first step in we thought this might be it.
Walking into a Vilano we were struck by the contemporary styling, the openness, the high ceilings, huge slide-outs and the incredible amount of internal storage. Seriously, if you have more stuff then this coach will hold you have too much stuff. Looking past our first impressions we noticed the special touches– like a residential refrigerator which keeps food cold while you travel, fully LED touch button lighting with a dimming feature, electric gate valves for black and grey tanks, heated tanks and compartments for cold weather travel, preps for solar panels and a third air-conditioner and the list keeps going on.
Friends who have visited us in our Vilano have commented, “It’s more like being in an apartment than an RV,” and we agree. It has quickly come to feel like home.
“There is a spiritual aspect to our lives – when we give, we receive – when a business does something good for somebody, that somebody feels good about them!” ~Ben Cohen, Co-Founder Ben & Jerry’s
But, of course, nothing’s perfect and during our walk-through-inspection we compiled a punch list of mostly small things needing to be fixed or adjusted under warranty. Usually, the selling dealership makes these adjustments. The dealership needed time to get all the parts and suggested we come back in about 30-days for the fixes. When they learned we were heading to Texas in less than 30-days, they sent our punch list to the Vanleigh factory in hopes of putting in a rush order on parts. And that’s where the story takes a very interesting turn. We drove off the dealer’s lot on a Sunday and on the next Monday morning I received a call from the VanLeigh RV Inc. Service Manager in Mississippi. He was completely aware of our timeline and invited Bonnie and me to visit the VanLeigh factory location in northern Mississippi on our way to Texas so they could “make-things-right.”
When purchasing an RV the main focus in the moment is the RV–the product–and perhaps secondarily are thoughts of the company and the people who designed and manufactured it. I don’t know what our initial expectations were of the VanLeigh company, but that phone call was our first hint that we might be getting a glimpse of something special. Of course we accepted the invitation.
We were at the factory for about a day and a half with our Vilano set up on one of the production connection sites where each finished coach is completed and tested. Vanleigh RV is a new company and the Vilano 5th Wheel was only introduced to the market this year (2015). We learned ours was the twelfth one they produced. They were producing the high fifties and beginning sixties while we were there and they had a large backlog of coaches already sold that they were working against. Amazingly, they were able to complete our entire punch list during that day and a half.
We also learned we were the first customers to visit the factory, although Vanleigh hopes it will become a normal practice. We were surprised to learn our punch list, which we emailed to the factory about a week earlier, had been distributed to all the related departments and discussed in all the production meetings prior to our arrival. They are passionate about ensuring no future customer would be experiencing the same issues that were on our punch list. Everyone who works on these models was very eager to hear about what we liked and what we didn’t. They asked us lots of questions even about things that weren’t on our list and often took notes. We’ve learned a few of our suggestions are being considered for future production changes. We certainly aren’t celebrities, but while we were in their house they certainly made us feel like we were.
“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” ~Margaret Mead
Bonnie and I spent far too many years working with companies who preached customer service but never really connected with or reached the point where they were living their mission statement. You can’t fake it if it’s not believed and acted on by all. Everyone we met and interacted with during our visit, from the security guard to Leigh of Vanleigh himself, left no doubt VanLeigh has managed to assemble and inspire an entire team who believes and interacts as if their customer is their purpose. Perhaps we drank the Kool-aid too, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing when it totally quenches your thirst. We love their product and our new home and we wish them all the best…for our sake. 😉