Fractional ownership has come a long way since the 1960’s. What was once seen as a revolutionary way to travel is now more commonly viewed as perpetually bad decision. While timeshare companies have been doing their best to address negative perception since the 1970’s, they haven’t been able to truly overcome the number of bad experiences travelers have had. Especially when consumers have given the hospitality giant every chance to redeem themselves. Just like any other major purchase decision that ends in disappointment, it’s hard for timeshare owners (past or current) to buy back into the product or service. It’s why so many want to get out of their agreement.
Disappointment and Disdain for Timeshare Owners
Throughout history, it has seemed like timeshare companies have continued to ignore the simple fact that buyer’s remorse (or regret) doesn’t only affect the individual. The customer experience eventually becomes an evergreen recommendation. A disappointed timeshare owner carries a lot more weight than a positive review. Early on, this wasn’t a major concern for resorts.
Prior to advancements in telecommunication, resorts didn’t have to worry too much about rapid word of mouth exchanges. They could keep negativity fairly contained while trekking forward with development. But as technology advanced, resorts were too busy chasing communicative opportunities to notice that timeshare owners began communicating their indifference.
Technology Became a Double Edged Sword for Timesharing
Like we’ve mentioned in previous articles, the lack of information about timesharing greatly benefitted the resort’s ability to close consumers on their concept for travel. The uninformed had no way of researching the product or skimming reviews in order to make an informed decision. In most cases, they couldn’t even phone a friend that knew anything about timeshare ownership.
The actuality of the experience was cloudy at best. Most stereotypes were combated with ongoing, promised improvements including credible hotel chain merges and rewards programs. But using intrigue to distract current and potential timeshare owners instead of improving the experience proved to be unsustainable. It was just a matter of time before that cat got out of the bag.
When communicative innovation began, the timeshare industry viewed it as an opportunity instead of a hurdle. While they were busy expanding call centers and streamlining marketing for new acquisition, consumers were talking. It’s like they didn’t forecast the inevitable. When a business avoids listening to their customers while turning up the volume of their sales message, the end result is rarely favorable. Happy customers normally give glowing reviews when asked, but disgruntled buyers typically tell anyone who’s willing to listen. Misery loves company and timeshare owners that were taken advantage of began to voice a reason for skepticism.
With that being said, let’s take a look at some of these technological advancements that have altered the industry for good.
How Telecommunication Spread the Word of Timesharing
If you’ve looked into the history of timeshare ownership, you’ll see that the industry expanded quickly. The ability for investors and entrepreneurs to communicate about expansion opportunities over the phone was the main reason growth occurred so quickly. Striking up deals and uncovering destination travel was revolutionary for the hospitality industry. Places people hadn’t dreamed of visiting easily became a reality. What buyers didn’t realize was that timesharing wasn’t always what it was “said” to be.
Timeshare Cold Calling Tactics.
For a good part of history, resorts used one-way communication to describe the timeshare experience. Call centers focused solely on acquisition controlled the message by enlightening consumers on opportunities they’d never heard of. Because people thought they’d won something unique, they weren’t even cognizant of the sale. Although cold calling was first documented in 1873, call scripts and sales strategies over the past few decades have boosted the reach of sales organizations exponentially. .
What was typically done on a local level by small businesses was quickly implemented on a global scale for timeshare travel. Early on, people weren’t normally bombarded like we are today with telephone scams. This allowed cold calling to be initially effective for timeshare sales teams. Before spam calls were common, people were intrigued, more willing to listen and easily sold on something they weren’t privy to. Since the overall perception of timesharing was still vague, salesman took advantage of an innocent, gullible audience.
Timeshare Owners Can Communicate Too.
As knowledge of the unfavorable transaction spread and cold call tactics were exposed, people started talking. Instead of continuously waiting for customer service departments to right the ship, they began taking advantage of public phone directories to file complaints with government divisions and consumer rights programs. As laws and regulations started cracking down on timeshare sales schemes, the industry had to look towards other means to acquire fractional owners.
Unlike yesteryear, persuading a consumer to buy a timeshare over the phone is nearly impossible today. While the initial call may be used to build rapport, additional measures are now needed to fully persuade targets. Because of this, sales presentations and tours have remained the main source of new acquisition for timeshares.
Over the last decade or so, timeshare companies have realized they have to find ways to get consumers to call them. Initially, direct mail marketing campaigns with enticing pitches aided their ability to do so. But as technology continued to evolve and with remorse still a concern, resorts knew the rise of the internet provided them with the best opportunity acquire new customers.
How the Internet Changed the Timeshare Industry for Good.
Today, you don’t necessarily have to sit through a timeshare sales pitch in person. Technology has given sales and hospitality organizations an advantage when interacting with consumers. Aside from participating in a live demo, you can also receive digital messages and virtual tours online. But it wasn’t always this easy. When the internet first came into fruition, email was a huge opportunity for resorts to get in front of prospective timeshare owners.
Email Gave Timeshares an Advantage
The same persuasive tactics that were being used over the phone and during events could now be typed into a personalized message used to target the millions of people online. Can you imagine receiving a “too good to be true” offer in your digital mailbox for the first time? We might balk at it today, but email was extremely powerful in the early 2000’s. Online discernment was basically nonexistent and many users were extremely gullible.
The internet era brought a ton of value to timeshare companies but it also opened the door for digital fraud and predatory scams. This tainted the industry’s reputation even more. Over time, spam and phishing regulations cut down on misleading emails and fraudulent activity. But online decision-making was still minuscule. Although email scams still exist, consumers have become more aware of tactics and are less prone to engage with this form of communication.
Aside from new acquisition, emailed allowed resorts to also upsell current property owners while improving the way they managed retention. Despite sales tactics remaining the same, the added element helped them expand their reach while maximizing revenue streams. It even gave them a persuasive advantage when it came to targeting older generations that refused to educate themselves on the internet realm. Sadly, the online aging demographic is still a major target for sales organizations today.
The Benefit and Backfire of Additional Online Advancements
Despite the emergence of text messaging in the early 2000’s, email has continued to be a strong form on communication. Nearly every form of verbal communication has been replaced with written messaging. You can now reach online users on social media and other platforms that typically require an email address to use. In turn, the ability for timeshare companies to collect and segment user data (emails, social media accounts, bookmarks, subscriptions, etc) has become extremely important. Once an entity has your email address, they can pretty much find you anywhere online with your digital footprint.
Technological advancements in online marketing have given companies the ability to target, track and re-market consumers on multiple channels. When one message isn’t effective, they try another. When you hang up the phone, they can now email you. When you unsubscribe from an email list, agencies can (and in most cases will) sell your information to another entity with a different product or agenda. Once you show interest by attending a timeshare sales presentation (or by clicking your mouse) they’re going to do everything they can to close you. They’re very good at this by the way. Not only does this help them address the increased acquisition costs of presentations, but it allows them to maximize their initial efforts. Phone scripts and email campaigns have turned into engaging social media posts, video presentations and other forms of interactive media. Resorts have even paid famous influencers to promote their timeshares.
Timeshare Scams Lurk Everywhere Online
Besides strategic variation, the online scape also provides timeshare companies and predatory agencies with a unique ability to pivot when things go south. Even though online reviews and scam reports expose unethical practices, online businesses can easily rebrand their company and launch a new website in no time. With the internet still being considered a wild west of sorts, it’s been extremely difficult for consumer and government organizations to regulate the space. Online booking has also made it very easy for online entities to mislead and take advantage of oblivious internet users. This is why it’s so important that you research digital purchases before making them.
What Does the Future of the Timeshare Industry Look Like?
Despite the reputation of the timeshare industry being at an all time low, conglomerates have continued to find a way to make billions of dollars every year. With the rise of vacation rentals and other non-contractual options, one can assume the timeshare industry will eventually slow down. But it seems like people have been making that claim for quite some time now. No matter how bad morale gets, the industry always seems to find a way out. While a number of timeshare owners struggle to make the most of their purchase, the timeshare sales machine continues to trek on. Will the online voice of the consumer be enough to put an end to the perpetual agreement or will timesharing overcome? Only time will tell..
Are you a timeshare owner that’s frustrated with your current agreement? Would you like to discuss your options? We take pride in helping fractional owners exhaust all their options before discussing our timeshare cancellation service. If you’d like to know more, you can schedule a FREE consultation or submit a qualification form below.