How CRM can benefit customers in the timeshare industry
I have always looked at Customer Relationship Management (CRM) as an effective process, measure and tool in managing customer relationships. Sounds like a simple and logical definition of CRM, but believe me, it can be the most challenging and exhaustive measure you can implement.
According to me, CRM goes beyond database management – it’s more than studying customer behavior and trends. Let me outline some of the focus points of special interest and consideration.
If a customer buys a white-goods appliance such as a fridge, or washing machine you could expect the customer to be tied to the company for at least five years – long after the customary one-year warranty. So as long as the manufacturer can support the product in terms of servicing and spares, the customer is happy.
But in timeshare, the home resort is linked to the customer for a good 25 years. To start with, many members of the sales or marketing team might not remain in the company for so long. So all the assurances and promises made by the young and spirited sales team, also need to be on paper.
Other than that, your sales team is practically getting older with the customer - which presents a tremendous responsibility in terms of sustaining customer interest right across the membership tenure. You need to make the product interesting with a constant renewal of customer experience.
A twenty-nine year old will turn 35 in six years – and 45, in sixteen. It’s the very same person travelling the route with you and getting older. So what he will like to do when he is 29 will be a lot different, when you compare with the things on his to-do list at 45.
The key phrase here is “evolving with your customer” and I think that is the secret sauce in this exercise. And while you’re attending to the needs of the 45-year-old, you have a fresh set of customers signing up, who are probably in the early thirties segment.
So it’s not just number crunching that works here, but understanding customers from various aspects. The deeper your insights, the better prepared you will be in terms of rolling out solutions.
Quite simply, understanding your customer also means knowing what he likes to eat three times in the day – and those in-betweens. And when we say “customer” we include little children, and go right up to people in their eighties maybe (and young enough to travel.) Do you see how varied and complex that can be?
So we’re talking about a wide range of food preferences – not to forget options in vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare. We’re also talking about regional preferences and a wide mix if possible, to keep everyone happy and satisfied. Resorts sometimes have a team of chefs looking into special themes, cuisines and ways to make the kitchens the most popular source of excitement. Come to think of it, food is an important ingredient on a vacation.
Most people on a vacation enjoy hanging around in the pool, or lazing by the deck, reading a book. But there are people who can be adventurous and can look forward to activities such as trekking, steep-face climbing and maybe even a little rapid-river rafting if the geography nearby allows it. The slightly older folks might fancy something at a slower pace – like a visit to the nearby plantations, or a beach location if there’s one nearby.
While F&B is an important consideration, what people want to do on a holiday is anybody’s guess. The wider the basket of experiences the better chance you have of keeping your guests happy and occupied. Some resorts even hire “guest experience managers” to make sure you really enjoy yourself at the resort and importantly, want to come back for more.
I have heard of large families of 15 people or more going on a timeshare vacation – this doesn’t usually happen in regular hotels. The timeshare format does encourage you to include your parents, grandparents, friends, neighbors, aunts, uncles, and just about anybody you would like to spend those magical seven days with in the year.
While I have deliberately not tried to complicate these CRM scenarios, the references to variations on a theme is what resort planners and managers grapple with, season after season. It’s hard work and takes a lot of personal involvement and commitment.
But it’s all worth it, I guess – when you see that smile on the face of a customer. A smile that says you’ve looked after him nicely. And that’s worth more than all the comments you see in the log.
B. S. Rathor
Advisor & Member - Executive Committee
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