The basic premise of this article is simple – communication leads to accessibility – accessibility leads to credibility – credibility leads to loyalty.
So, view every communication with an owner as a handshake. A warm, friendly genuine handshake. Even if it’s maintenance fee billing!
Let’s consider the many reasons we must communicate with our owners. And then, let’s look at some ways to connect the touchpoints from the prism of opportunity.
If you are a resort operator – manager or board member, you are very aware of the need to communicate with your owners and guests. Some are mandated by your HOA By-laws, while others are meant to inform your stakeholders (from owners/members to guests to investors).
Not utilizing the technology available today for myriad reasons provides a particular “excuse” to continue to use archaic methods.
SaaS and Customer Communications Management
Delivering these handshakes to owners over a variety of technologies is a lot easier if you use technology to do so. SaaS (Software as a Service) technologies and CCM are very valuable in your quest to communicate efficiently and minimize your need to focus on each element.
SaaS is a great tool if you prefer to let the system “do the heavy lifting” and focus only on the results you seek.
Customer communications management software enables resort operators to develop maintenance fee statements, annual meeting notices and much more that are customized to each HOA and owner, using a cloud-based dashboard, says Bryan Ten Broek, Vice President, Business Development for Nordis Technologies, the leading CCM solutions provider for vacation ownership companies.
Operators also can designate and update how the owners will receive these communications, including mail, email, SMS/text and digital wallet, all adapted to each owner’s preferences, which often is a mix of those channels.
Consider Smart Phone Technology and all it can do.
But wait. “Our owners are too old and prefer to hear from us the old-fashioned way.” For example, the reliance is on the owner/guest to pick up the weekly schedule, call the front desk (assuming there is one) or find and fill out the comment card left in the room, then delivering it back to the resort upon check out. (Since the core of our CustomerCount feedback system is a customer survey, the comment card is one that is of particular interest to me!)
A few facts to consider: 77% of adult Americans own a smartphone. 92% of millennials, 85% of Gen X, 67% of Baby Boomers own and use the smartphone as their preferred method of communication. (Source: Pew Research Center, 2018).
Also, according to Pew in the same study: Texting is the most widely used application on a Smartphone with over 97% of Smartphone owners texting at least once a day.
According to Anthony Link of The Connections Group a Florida based company specializing in mobile communications “text communications is one of the very few trusted methods of communication and can enhance the guest experience in many ways, including providing information of on-site activities”. He adds, “it comes down to both speed of delivery, ease of use, and the way the guests want to communicate”.
These numbers don’t exactly prove the thinking that our owners and guests are too old.
Link says, “Text communications is one of the very few trusted methods of communication and can enhance the guest experience in many ways, including providing information of on-site activities”. He adds, “It comes down to both speed of delivery, ease of use, and the way the guests want to communicate”.
NOTE: The Federal Communications Commission treats text messaging as it would any phone call. Be mindful of the importance that your message contains nothing solicitous. And, to be on the very safe side, express written consent is advisable.
Sample: Express Permission Language*- consent for ABC to use an automatic telephone dialing system to call and/or text me at the phone number provided below with advertisements of its products and services. I understand that I am not required to provide consent to be eligible to make a purchase. *Talk to your attorney
Who does not have an email account? I mean, really.
As much as email is maligned by other delivery methods, it still has an incredibly high “open” rate in the hospitality market. According to Constant Contact, as of March 2019 what they call “Accommodations” (Hotels, Inns, B&B, Campgrounds):
Open Rate Mobile/Tablet
Desktop Click Through
And, email affords the very best opportunity to “drip” information like upcoming board votes and maintenance billings. In addition, links are embedded to make doing business with you very convenient. It is used to deploy pre-check-in information and gather pre-check-in information. It is used to deploy marketing messages and post-stay surveys. (NOTE: any email that reinforces an affinity to your property will drive higher response rates. For example, our post-stay surveys will return a response rate of 30% to 40%.).
But, (there is always a “but”) a secret to email is to be careful not to create email fatigue. Always be relevant.
Digital and Social
Then there is, of course, digital. The new kid on the block and we should all be paying attention to this one.
Rating sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google Reviews and a host of others delivering insight into your operations and culture like never before. Ignore them at your peril. While you are at it, you should become a social media junkie – Facebook, Snap Chat, WhatsApp, and Instagram are all talking about you. You need to show that you are listening by responding.
Emily Collins of EVC Marketing, a UK based timeshare digital marketing firm points out, “Until recently, owner/resort communications was limited to an annual newsletter typically sent with a maintenance fee bill. If a resort had something to sell, they might make a phone call with a sales pitch. Or, where data was available, send an email. These often went unread, or worse, there was no interest, response or engagement”.
Emily adds “Then came social media. With social being the keyword. Being in touch and communicating with your owners has never been easier. Being able to immediately respond, share, like and comment has never been easier for your owners. The engagement has increased and so has owner advocacy. They can now be part of the conversation and it is paramount to business success. Reputation matters. Using technology for your reputation and brand management is not the future, it is now.”
PR – Invaluable
When I spoke with Georgi Bohrod of GBG& Associates, a San Diego communications firm she reminded me that “Part of any company communications plan is a strategy focusing on crisis and disaster. As awful as the prospect of a hurricane or a lawsuit may be, it is important to be ready to address the issue in a preemptive manner. This means having templates ready for email communications, message points in place for consumer engagement professionals and a plan for company executives that may need to talk with the media. Every owner and/or member is vested in the company image, and a good communications plan will take this into account.”
She adds, “On a more positive note, traditional PR stories online, in broadcast and in print are a good way to solidify the pride of ownership and owners and members should be notified when good news happens!”
It really is a handshake!
With so many opportunities (there’s that word again) to reach out and touch our members, it is important to use the best vehicle for the intended purpose. This is why we frequently survey members about what method is the most preferred way to hear from us. With the technology explosion some of the methods in this article may be quickly replaced next year– so staying on top of communications trends is not just for marketers anymore. It is an important strategic factor for Member Services departments, HOA Boards and other resort departments who engage consumers.
Robert A. (Bob) Kobek, RRP – President and CEO, Mobius Vendor Partners and CustomerCount® — specializes in the design, implementation, and marketing of products and services. Bob Kobek has designed more than 150 outbound telemarketing, inbound customer service and order processing operations, and interactive information systems. In 2007 Bob and Mobius launched CustomerCount® a feature-rich, cloud-based survey solution providing intuitive real-time reporting, fast turnaround on updates, and detailed and dynamic data gathering for process improvement and customer loyalty to improve your bottom line. The system is the only feedback system designed specifically for the leisure travel industry. Mr. Kobek is a member of the American Resort Development Association and sits on the Membership Committee, Reputation Management Committee, and the Federal Issues Committee. Bob has also served as the Interim President of the American Teleservices Association and serves as the chair of the PACE Government Affairs committee.