Richard Heim Senior Manager, Customer Service/Owner Support Holiday Inn Club Vacations
In your wildest dreams, could you imagine what it would be like to receive 800,000 phone calls from your customers each year? For Richard Heim this is not a dream, it’s reality. As Senior Manager of Customer Service and Owner Support for Holiday Inn Club Vacations (HICV) in Orlando, his team has experienced this amazing call volume and is actually on target to handle upwards of 900,000 calls in 2017.
While his company may have 340,000 timeshare owners, his primary responsibility is much like a company with 3,000 owners. It’s imperative that his customer service professionals have the most accurate information to relay to their owners.
Promoted to his current position in August 2017, his team supports front line Club Counselors and 26 Resort Operations teams with members’ accounts. They are the heartbeat of all communications with members/owners and serve as the liaisons for most departments, supporting HOAs and representing the Club at annual meetings.
“You could call our department ‘the fixers’ since we do whatever it takes to correct a situation and make things right for our owners and members while reinforcing their membership benefits,” Richard said. “Our 32-person team includes supervisors, customer service representatives, correspondence specialists and one social media specialist who handles all online presence for the Club on several social media platforms.”
When Orange Lake Resorts acquired Silverleaf Resorts in May 2015 – with 13 resorts and more than 3,000 employees – the acquisition doubled its size to 26 resorts, 340,000 owners, and more than $700 million in revenues. This made Orange Lake Resorts and the HICV brand the second largest mortgage portfolio in the industry at $1.3 billion. Servicing over 100,000 new owners and learning the ins and outs of 13 new resorts was a tall order for Owner Support. It involved all segments of rebranding, renovations, conversion of technology, accounting and communication systems. The massive project required non-stop training to update team members.
His department’s mission statement is to provide the best customer service while improving the lives of those in the community. In 2016, Richard and his team worked with the Orlando Family Assistance Center to accommodate family members of the Pulse terror attack victims. Hurricane Matthew occurred weeks later with the need for the evacuation of guests at resorts in the affected area. He led the Customer Service department in contacting affected owners and guests to cancel reservations and refund money or points. Later in the year, deadly fires rolled across the Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg. Guided by his expertise, Richard’s team jumped into action to notify guests of the pending danger, overseeing the outbound campaign in contacting affected owners and guests to cancel reservations and refund any points or money.
Richard began his Vacation Ownership career in 2006 at Ron Jon Cape Caribe Resort (now Holiday Inn Club Vacations Cape Canaveral Beach Resort) as the Manager of Reservations and Owner Services. Earlier, he was GM for a boutique Hampton Inn in West Palm Beach for several years. Prior to that he worked as a Club Manager at a private country club in Vero Beach, Florida. He joined HIVC with the acquisition of Ron Jon Cape Resort in 2014. He earned a degree in Hospitality Management from Johnson & Wales, in Providence RI.
“When I came to Orange Lake Resorts right after the acquisition, it was clearly the right fit,” recalls Richard. “I brought my two pugs (Max & Oliver), found a really quaint house in downtown Orlando and haven’t looked back – I absolutely LOVE living in Orlando!”
“The best part of working here is the people, the members and the Senior Leadership team. They empower and trust individuals to make sound decisions. It’s pretty exciting to think that Kemmons Wilson (founder of Holiday Inn), created Orange Lake Resort in the 80s. His legacy continues with the Wilson family continuing the tradition of creating memorable vacation experiences. When Mr. Spence Wilson Sr. walks through the building, he always stops to say hello and sincerely asks how everything is going. He then personally thanks that employee for what they do. Personally, it is extremely impressive that he has never wavered from what he learned from his father.”
Leonardo Alvarez-García Housekeeping Manager, Grand Timber Lodge Breckenridge Grand Vacations
Leonardo (Leo) Alvarez-García is Housekeeping Manager for Grand Timber Lodge in Breckenridge, nestled between Peaks 8 and 9 of Breckenridge Ski Resort, the nation’s most visited ski resort.
With Breckenridge Grand Vacations (BGV) for six years, Leonardo astutely supervises a staff of 66 housekeepers, inspectors and managers. Through a combination of wise procedural choices, superb training, and a genteel personnel management style, he motivates his staff to complete each day’s work a full 30 minutes ahead of the check-in time. He recently implemented the use of state-of-the-art communication devices to make early check-ins commonplace.
“From the day Leo assumed his leadership role in 2015, his entire resort and staff have thrived,” shares Resort General Manager Josh Stuhr, RRP. “Leo is a fantastic coach and has developed many of his staff into solid leaders. He maintains a focus well beyond the walls of housekeeping, working seamlessly with Guest Services and Engineering to provide owners and guests with superior service. Although unemployment in his region has dipped to about 2%, there is always a line of applicants at his door, hoping to work for him and Grand Timber Lodge housekeeping, due to his department’s excellent reputation within the community.”
The purpose-built timeshare resort – with floating weeks – opened in 1999 with 160 two-bedroom units spread across eight three-story buildings of timber-frame construction on eleven acres. The property features two aquatic centers and three sets of locker rooms to accommodate owners on day-use visits.
Leo finished last year at 12 percent under budget, enabling the resort to implement some capital improvements. He generated
additional revenue by arranging a daily service for the resort’s rental guests and scheduling immediate cleaning of every early check-out, which substantially increased occupancy throughout the year.
Leo also instituted team cleaning where staff members are paired to work together cleaning rooms, increasing efficiency by cross-training everyone in the department to perform in each position. This has resulted in opportunities for advancement and a true team effort to strive to have everything completed on time. He also arranges assistance for those running behind schedule without reducing any pay.
Since safety is an important focus, Leo brought in an outside trainer to demonstrate proper lifting techniques and to show everyone the safest way to clean a room. He also provides lunch for the entire staff every-other-week, serving only healthy food. After sharing information about healthy eating habits, a full 30 percent of the housekeeping staff started diets to lose weight, working with a local community care clinic. Again, considering the well-being of his team, Leo replaced 25-pound vacuums with lighter vacuums that get the job done with less wear and tear on the staff.
Originally from Michoacan, Mexico, Leonardo is the youngest in a family of eight. He is bilingual with a total understanding of Latino culture, which is greatly beneficial since many of his team members are Spanish speaking. He completed an MDP vocational school program, receiving a diploma in resort management. Prior to joining BGV, he worked for five years in operations management with Vail Resorts. When he came to the U.S. eleven years ago, he did not speak any English and is now fluent enough to help his staff build their own language skills. During his six years with BGV, he has won ten internal corporate awards for his leadership and creativity.
This housekeeping manager truly loves his work. “I love what I do and the company I work for,” he says. “BGV has such a great reputation within the community, when I have a staff opening, as many as ten people may apply for it. One of the best things about working for a fractional ownership resort is that having annually returning guests provides the opportunity to help create additional positive vacation experiences, improving on the previous year.”
In his free time during the summer months, 34-year-old Leonardo plays basketball and enjoys running and hiking.