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Image of Navigator’s work for De Vere Resorts.Mention CRM to any marketer and generally one of the first things that will come to mind will be the need to invest in a fancy IT system. What can be forgotten is the principle of CRM – that of good customer relationship management – and the rewards that can be reaped by abiding by this principle.
De Vere Resort Ownership has abided by this principle since setting up in 1990 with the first week’s timeshare sale to the first owner at Cameron House.
Right from the start, managing director Craig Mitchell knew that selling timeshare was much more than just chasing the sale. It was the start of a long-term relationship with each individual owner. Especially as, at the time, timeshare had an appalling reputation thanks to dodgy sales techniques in Spain hitting the headlines every other week.
The product was designed to be absolutely perfect – 5-star luxury all the way – with no expense spared on the specification of the timeshare lodges. From en-suite bathrooms and designer kitchens to Bang & Olufsen equipment and a view from every balcony. With the timeshares located in beautiful estates with access to 5-star hotel and leisure facilities, owners are wrapped in luxury for the length of their stay. The objective was to create an environment of “home from home, but better”.
The sales process was meticulously planned to ensure that, from first contact, our potential owner’s experience was enjoyable and, importantly, at no point were they subjected to any “hard sell” – the objective was to let the properties sell themselves.
The creative work developed by Navigator Responsive Advertising since 1993 reflects the standards of luxury on offer at the resorts – with the use of photography key-in helping potential customers visualise themselves enjoying the facilities.
This approach has successfully sold 5,200 weeks of timeshare since launch – a value in excess of £67 million. De Vere Resort Ownership now has three resort locations – Cameron House on Loch Lomond, Slaley Hall in Northumberland and Belton Woods in Lincolnshire.
At the heart of the organisation is the realisation that, once a week of timeshare is sold to a customer, we only have that week or two each year to get the “experience” right when they visit their lodge. By developing relevant communications throughout the year we have built a relationship that is beyond their stay.
There are regular newsletters to keep owners up to date with new developments and “local” interest stories. Through these communications we have developed our owners into our best brand advocates.
One of the first tests of the relationship was the introduction of the second resort at Slaley Hall in May 1998. The first people offered the chance to visit the lodges were our existing owners – at pre-completion stage of the development, when there was just one completed property to view. They leapt at the chance to purchase at another resort. This also held true when the third location was launched at Belton Woods in August 1999. Now, unbelievably, over 12 per cent of our owners have properties at more than one De Vere Resort.
Research amongst owners revealed that they wanted even more interaction with us throughout the year and, on this basis, a number of initiatives have been successfully launched.
One of the initiatives launched was the De Vere Resort Owners “club”, which combined the three resorts under one umbrella, enabling us to offer unique benefits to owners – such as the ability to swap their weeks between resorts or split weeks into two short breaks.
The “club” is owner-driven and there is now a “committee”, who are encouraged to take responsibility for important areas such as maintenance charge setting (the annual fee paid by owners to maintain the properties).
A recent example of the “committee” taking control was at Belton Woods. No cars are allowed up to the lodges and instead owners have a golf buggy to travel round the resort. These started to be misused and it was under consideration to remove them completely. This was reported in the owners’ newsletter to open the topic up for discussion. We had an overwhelming response and owners undertook to resolve the problem themselves. No more abused buggies!
Other initiatives that have been developed include the extension of “cross-selling” at pre-completion stages of any new properties and a member-get-member scheme, where both parties are rewarded on the sale of a week by receiving a gift – a side of salmon or bottle of Scotch whisky proving the most popular. An excellent return on investment when a week of timeshare can be sold for as much as £35,000.
Because the relationship between De Vere Resort Ownership and the owners is now so strong, the customer relationship management has become more straightforward and our retention rate is over 95 per cent – one of the lowest resale rates in the industry.