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Re-Inventing the Timeshare Industry

(Initiatives and Trends, Developments Magazine, Guest Blogger) Permanent link

Re-Inventing the Timeshare Industry 

By Francis J. Gouillart, ARDA Guest Blogger

October 1, 2013 

Francis Gouillart 

Here’s a sneak peek at an upcoming Developments magazine article, to be published in the November/December 2013 edition. 

Editor’s Note: Co-creation has been a hot topic at a few industry events over this past year—in the interest of providing provocative content in Developments, we invited Mr. Gouillart to share thoughts from his unique perspective outside our industry. 

The timeshare industry shares some of the same risks that faced the U.S. automotive or banking industries a few years ago. It has an aging customer base and may not be doing enough to attract younger buyers. With a bit of work, however, this paradigm could be shifted.

The timeshare product should resonate with the younger set. Younger GenXers and Millenials like taking vacations, sharing space, and traveling with their peers on world-wide adventures. They already rent ZipCars, not Hertz or Enterprise, and stay in AirBnB places, not hotel rooms. Despite the inherent power of this sharing concept, this demographic has not truly been engaged in the product of timeshare, perhaps because it is presented through a one-sided marketing and sales process.

ZipCars and AirBnB were able to update the car rental and hotel industry and reach out to this younger generation by reinventing the sales and marketing process. They engage GenXers and GenYers one customer at a time, in a deep bottom-up fashion. For the timeshare industry, the trick is to transform a new model without having the benefit of being a start-up.

When companies and industries evolve through the gradual development of new interactions between employees and customers working together to invent the new model, we call it “co-creation.” In the timeshare industry, frontline marketing and sales people are in the best possible place to orchestrate the development of these new interactions because they deal with customers every day.

The key to unleashing this “torrent of empathy” between salespeople and potential timeshare customers is the engagement of a company’s own GenX and GenY employees and inviting them to co-create with customers of their generation. If empowered by management, employees will seek to improve their own job experience and engage customers in optimizing their collective experience of the company. Ask your employees what it would take to draw their friends into the “timeshare zone.”

Imagine a series of open forums where a group of young people is invited to come on a property for a few days and invited to co-define with employees what the future process of engagement with each other ought to be. It’s best not to view this as a focus group, where you ask customers for the proverbial “unmet needs,” but rather as a confrontation of personal experiences on both the employee side (for example, anxiety in making quota) and the consumer side (trying to make vacations fit into their budget).

What we call selling and marketing ought to be the building of innovative relationships between two groups of individuals: the customers and the sales and marketing team. I believe that if the timeshare industry accepts the inevitability of its transformation, it will have a bright future. 

For the full article, be on the lookout for the November/December issue of Developments!