Mr. Lobo

Guest Service / Customer Experience Mgmt

The Classic Formula: Use + Satisfaction = Lower Delinquency

By Nigel Lobo, Vice President of Resort Operations, Grand Pacific Resorts

Whether your hospitality niche is timeshare, shared ownership, vacation club or hotel, customer loyalty and retention is at the top of everyone's priorities these days. Since I came from the hotel world into timeshare operations it has become increasingly evident that the most effective way to drive loyalty with our customers, guests, and in our case, owner, is to keep them engaged and continually reignite the flame that motivated them to invest in owning a timeshare.

Our strategy to keep our owners loyal and committed to their timeshare purchase is tied to a simple equation: Use + Satisfaction = Lower Delinquency. How do we do that?

An Owner engagement strategy typically targets encouraging owner usage. How do you get owners to use their timeshare either at their home resort or exchange their week and travel to other resorts? The key is keeping owners informed of what they own, the deadlines they need to be aware of to best use their ownership, and help them overcome procrastination. I believe procrastination is the biggest enemy of timeshare ownership. To get the best availability and options when traveling away from their home resort, plans have to be made well in advance. This goes in sync with the thought process of making and keeping a vacation a priority.

An important need from an owner perspective is "Information". How do we communicate and update owners with timely and easy to understand information and updates about their vacation ownership that will generate action and use? Professional management companies have this approach built into their operations. For instance, our company has a Division of Owner Loyalty which maintains a constant and thoughtful flow of information to our owners. E-blasts and customized reminder updates certainly help our owners with the appropriate information they need, and a follow up call from our Owner Services team helps them overcome procrastination.

We also send out high content newsletters and electronic updates to keep our owners "in the know". The Owner Satisfaction Survey that we have launched over the past couple of years has our owners letting us know they enjoy informational (non-sales solicitation) updates, which certainly assists with the owner engagement process. Our customized electronic e-blasts provide our owners the options they have available to them to make full use of their vacation ownership.

Grand Pacific Resort Management recently launched a "Let us help you plan your vacation" email campaign which serves as a gentle reminder to our owners on their myriad vacation options with a call to action. We also offer Vacation Ownership 101 classes targeting our owners, so they can fully understand how to maximize the usage of their timeshare. We have launched webinars to further enrich our owners' education and understanding of their timeshare ownership. As new options become available (new resorts, new split week options, cruise exchanges, etc.), we keep our owners up to date on how they can incorporate these changes into their timeshare use.

In these tough economic times, we conjure up an image of a family sitting around the table and deciding how to make their "personal economy" function. When it comes to identifying and prioritizing expenses, one would typically see them generate two lists - Necessity vs. Discretionary. Our goal, as part of the owner engagement formula, is to keep the HOA dues on the Necessity or non-discretionary list (along with their mortgage/rent, car payments, gas, utilities etc.). Our vision is to have the family push to keep their HOA dues and commitment to their timeshare ownership on the Necessity list. The key question then is: How do we accomplish this from a Resort Operations standpoint?

When an owner has had the opportunity to be at their well-maintained resort, experience first-hand the service culture and warm sense of belonging, as well as engage in the resort activities they will be further enthralled with the benefits of ownership and the value proposition the same represents.

Our ongoing communication and customized messages help them overcome procrastination and plan their vacation early. When they do fall behind on their dues, our approach to them has, and always will be, that of a friendly outreach and compassionate collection which goes a long way in keeping them loyal to their ownership and resort financially healthy.

Working with a successful rental affiliate such as ResorTime.com is another avenue that both benefits the bottom line and well as encourages owners to enjoy the benefits of timeshare ownership with a Bonus Time Network™. Not only is this another way to bring owners back to the property, but it also mitigates the overhead burden and could also bring prospective buyers to the resort.

Another positive technique, and of course one to practice no matter what your hospitality niche is the perpetuation of a strong Service Culture geared to always creating memorable vacation experiences for owners and guests. At Grand Pacific Resort Management we call this our "Grand Treatment Program" which provides training skills and service standards for all associates to create "moments of magic", one guest at a time.

The Grand Treatment training streamlined the service behaviors and standards in every one of our properties. As an example, in the training program, we focus on how we interact with our guests when they are in our Greeting Zone - using the 15-10 Rule. When an associate gets within fifteen feet of a guest they make sure there is eye contact; after the visual acknowledgement, and at ten feet of the guest, they are to greet them verbally. The 15-10 Rule is enacted while thinking "I like you!" As with any good program, we ensure success by measuring the impact on both employee team members as well as guests. Our line level employees receive timely and immediate feedback. Since the interaction between guests and these key members is of primary importance to enjoying vacation time, we adopted the "TSS" feedback formula, incorporating three critical ingredients to ensure effective feedback as part of Building our strong Service Culture. TSS stands for Timely, Specific and Sincere. The results of this management program have surfaced as positive. In a recent associate satisfaction survey of line level associates, "Full Appreciation for a job well done" ranked higher than "salaries and compensation."

While this seems surprising at first blush, when considered in the context of our overall goals, the program appears to be quite successful. Associates are involved and personally vested in our guest's satisfaction. We make this work by incorporating positive reinforcement of behaviors that are beneficial; immediately highlighting specific deficiencies; holding department meetings where everyone participates in sharing specific issues and concerns as well as ideas to improve and conducting monthly forums with the General Manager.

If we create great memories for our owners while they stay at our resorts this greatly aids future sales because it creates positive word of mouth. Being aware of the human factor is vital. We are very much a team; everybody has human emotions and good days and bad days. Our employees are encouraged to discuss performance and to help each other out. This helps self-correct any problems in the level of the service we are providing to owners and guests that might be developing.

Every customer interaction counts. Every interaction impacts the customers' perception of our resort and our organization. We encourage our associates to constantly "look for opportunities to serve" and exceed expectations associated with each interaction. Even with more than 45,000 owners, our associates approach and treat every owner as if they are our ONLY OWNER. We work hard to keep our owners informed, engaged and committed to a "lifetime of vacations".

Nigel Lobo has the overall leadership of Resort Operations at Grand Pacific Resorts, including Inventory Management, Owner Services and HOA Support, as well as Resort Maintenance, Design and Purchasing and new Business Development. Mr. Lobo is responsible for building and retaining a strong management team to maintain Grand Pacific Standards of Excellence across all resorts. Mr. Lobo is a hospitality veteran and has held various senior executive positions in the hotel and resort management field for various hotel brands including the Intercontinental Hotels Group, Marriott, and Hilton Brands in Asia, Europe and the United States. Mr. Lobo can be contacted at 760-431-8500 or nlobo@gpresorts.com Extended Bio...

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