A Message for Timeshare: Creating a Legacy of Loyalty

The following article appears in the August issue of Developments magazine, the “voice of the timeshare industry” published by the American Resort Development AssociationDevelopments is published 10 times a year, which includes the double issues for the ARDA Convention and ARDA Fall Conference. “Creating a Legacy of Loyalty” was written by Linda Parker, Consulting Director of Communications and Brand Management for VacationOwnership.com. It is reprinted here with permission of Developments. You will want to explore all of the articles in this and every issue of Developments. Follow this link to read this month’s digital edition.

Creating  a Legacy of Loyalty


Vibrant, yet soft-spoken and engaging, Fred Reichheld is the person you hope you will wind up seated next to on a plane. If you missed hearing him as the keynote speaker at the 2004 ARDA Convention and you do not work for one of the hundreds of successful companies that utilize Reichheld’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) for tracking customer satisfaction, then your first introduction to this noted author and Harvard MBA graduate may have happened this spring, at the 2012 ARDA World.

Developments ARDA Magazine August 2012
Developments ARDA Magazine August 2012

Recognized as the business world’s ambassador for bringing the Golden Rule to industry, Reichheld identifies his mission as that of creating, “… a community of people who believe the purpose of companies and other organizations is to enrich the lives they touch and to create relationships worthy of loyalty.” Chick-fil-A, Zappos, and LEGO are among the companies incorporating Golden Rule principles and NPS criteria into their business models.

Although it’s not hard to see how consumers become loyal fans of steamy hot chicken sandwiches, new shoes that arrive at your doorstep overnight, and the yellow, red, and blue building blocks that have inspired the creativity of children for generations, it would seem that other corporations face bigger challenges in building loyalty. Yet, even companies that are not in the business of selling “fun” products—The Cancer Treatment Centers of America and the Consumer Division of Experian credit bureau, for example—are also utilizing the Reichheld Golden Rule strategies effectively.

Applying the Rule

As the industry that makes it possible for millions of owners and renters to vacation better year after year, it wouldn’t seem that vacation ownership would find it overly challenging to build legacy of loyalty.

Yet, even though research consistently shows more than 80 percent of owners satisfied with their vacation ownership, the voices of this content majority do not resonate as resoundingly as the opinions of a small, unhappy few. With customers and employees blogging, tweeting, and texting about their experiences in real time, Reichheld points out that in every industry, those opinions are “…overwhelming the carefully crafted messages proffered by advertising and public relations departments.”

Could it be that we are succeeding in ways that leave our owners “satisfied” yet are still failing in creating a loyalty legacy because the majority of these satisfied timeshare owners have stopped short of becoming raging fans? Vacationers do not say, “I love timeshare” unless they feel valued and appreciated first. They must “feel the love” from the resorts where they stay, the HOAs that manage the resorts, and the brands behind the resorts. For the owners who love (or hate) timeshare, the emotion is not segmented; their opinions about timeshare are built by their comprehensive experience. They must feel appreciated and respected from the day they begin looking to buy timeshare, to their sales transaction, their booking and exchange process, and the resort or reseller they ultimately turn to when they no longer want to own their timeshare.

Loyalty only happens, Reichheld explains, when companies create ways for customers to feel that they have received even more than they paid for in value, quality, or service (or any combination thereof). If this feeling of surfeit for the timeshare owner sustains, year after year, then the product begins to benefit from a legacy of loyalty. Owners feel good both about their timeshare experience and about their association with the timeshare product. Their positive feeling becomes reaffirming as they see themselves as individuals who make wise choices, and are savvy enough to recognize a great vacation product. They start to seek opportunities to experience timeshare more fully, expanding their use of timeshare exchange, renting as well as buying, and even buying additional timeshare for themselves or as gifts for sharing the joy of vacation ownership with other family members. Loyal customers become powerful brand evangelists and an industry’s single best marketing medium.

The principles of NPS direct leaders to create measurable goals, tracking, and accountability for Golden Rule objectives and then hardwire customer feedback into all key decision making. Companies must purge bad profits from their income streams, focusing on the elimination of hidden fees, penalties, and other add-ons that generate profits but leave clients feeling abused. It’s the type of bad business practice that Randall Stross, when writing about AOL’s treatment of its customers, described in a New York Times article by saying, “the company’s culture became accustomed to concentrating energy on trapping customers who wished to leave.”

Creating loyalty, it seems, is a vastly greater mission than goodwill spread by customer service departments. Instead, it must be integrated at all levels of a company and of the industry that the company is a part of, in ways that are both bottom up and top down. Industries must recognize and then provide the tools frontline workers need in order to deliver extraordinary customer service. For loyalty to exist and sustain, workers must feel good about the product, the company, and the industry they represent.

This responsibility is carried by CEOs, industry leaders at all levels, and through- out the association of ARDA. We are all in the business of creating happy owners who love a good product. And Fred Reichheld would remind us that facilitating loyalty is a long journey of change, in which you may be always moving forward but will never fully arrive. That makes the goal a high enough bar for which to aim!