Winnebago V.O.I.C.E. - Putting RVers at the Core

Winnebago V.O.I.C.E. - Putting RVers at the Core
An inside look at how owner feedback is highly encouraged at GNR and other RVer events.
By: Lindsey Quick

During a warm week in late July, I had the opportunity to attend my first Winnebago Grand National Rally (GNR). At this event, all Winnebago RV owners are invited to a giant campground just across the road from their headquarters and factory service center in Forest City, IA. 

Winnebago RVers from across the U.S. and Canada travel to this rural Iowa town to join together in celebration, community and comradery. Winnebago staff are there to get in on the fun, but they're also gathering feedback at every turn of the event. From the educational sessions to the evening entertainment, to informal conversations happening on the grounds, Winnebago staff are asking, "What's working? What's not?" 

This is not a new practice. Winnebago has been seeking out this feedback for years, and many attendees come prepared with a list of suggestions, such as how to improve the comfort of the mattress or how the swing-arm for the television should work over the dinette table. Every Winnebago employee is eating this feedback up; taking notes and asking questions when they need clarification.

Introducing the Winnebago V.O.I.C.E Feedback-Collection Project 

Five years ago, Winnebago started the V.O.I.C.E. (Visits on Innovation and Customer Enhancements) project with the goal of getting more first-hand feedback from product owners. 

In prior years, Winnebago staff would meet with owners in their personal RVs – even owners of non-Winnebago products – at rallies across North America to find out how owners were using their RVs, what modifications they'd made on their own or wish they could make, and how could their experiences be improved. 

At this year’s GNR, Winnebago focused on receiving feedback on current models. 

Team members from across the company, including Product, Training, Sales and Marketing, were on-hand to tour various Winnebago RVs with GNR attendees. Winnebago staff carried a questionnaire used to get conversations started, but in nearly every case, owners were ready to share their thoughts and opinions. 

I overheard discussions about the positioning of the bed, comfort of the driver seat, layout of the bathroom, and so much more. Winnebago has created such a welcoming environment for feedback that owners had no problem sharing what they loved and what they didn't. 

Extending V.O.I.C.E Efforts Across the Rally Grounds

While Winnebago does create these V.O.I.C.E. sessions that are focused solely on gathering owner feedback, that wasn't the only opportunity for rally attendees to share their thoughts. In fact, customer feedback was a thread woven through all aspects of the event. 

Every session I attended, no matter the topic, always ended with ample time for questions and feedback from the audience. And it was clear the audience was used to this because no one held back – they asked tough questions and gave critical feedback about the things that frustrated or confused them. And while there were some questions Winnebago couldn't answer directly, they assured the audience that it was something they were working to address.

Winnebago hosted multiple educational sessions and each one included time for Q&A

When I spoke to Winnebago team members about why hearing from customers was so important, each echoed the same sentiment: "We don’t live in these units – our customers do. When we design them, it makes sense to us, and we want to hear how that translates to the people using these rigs on weekends or as their full-time living space." 

They also said it came down to common sense: "Why wouldn't a brand seek feedback from its customers and then work to incorporate it into their products? We want to give our customers what they need. The best way to do that is to let them tell us what that is."

Winnebago also hosted ‘Design Your Own Coach’ sessions, where attendees were asked to draw what they'd like to see both inside and outside different RVs. Designs were judged and prizes were awarded for most creative and most functional.

As information from these events is collected, it's entered into a feedback database for the Product team to review. The suggestions are then prioritized and changes are implemented. There have been countless updates made to Winnebago products that were a result of this feedback. 

These include changes to furniture choices and functionality, such as theater seating and tables that convert to a standing workspace, along with the expansion of storage capability and the creation of pet-friendly spaces.

I already knew Winnebago valued customer feedback. As an admin in the Winnebago Solis Owners and Wannabes Facebook group, I had seen first-hand how conversations in the group resulted in changes to the Solis. What I didn't know about was the deep relationships Winnebago staff have with their customers. At both GNR and other non-Winnebago rallies across North America, many of the attendees have been coming for years and have developed relationships not only with one another, but also with the Winnebago team. 

GNR attendees host "row parties" where groups of owners share special foods and beverages while decorating their rows. Other GNR attendees make their way through the rows to sample food, listen to music and enjoy each other's company.

Listening to & Caring for the Winnebago Family

That was probably the most surprising thing to me: How accessible all of the Winnebago team makes themselves to rally goers, and how intensely the team cares about what these owners have to say. 

Winnebago team members and rally attendees asked each other about the products, but then covered topics like recent family vacations, milestones in their kids' lives, and new additions to the family, like grandkids and pets. I felt like I was at a family reunion, and the kind of family where you genuinely want to hear how things are going for one another. 

Winnebago places a high value on the feedback and experience of its customers, and they'll use every opportunity to collect customer input, whether you own a Winnebago or not. Plenty of brands ask for your feedback via emailed surveys, but very few make hearing from and understanding their customers a part of their core. 

And very few brands are as equally interested in your feedback about the mattresses they use as they are in the latest photos of your grandson. It was an incredibly moving experience for me and something that reiterated what I value about this brand.

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