From Interval HD to Seamless Exchange, Interval Leads by Meeting Developer Needs.
When Club Intrawest began exploring new exchange options, they found more than they expected. “Our Members are an affluent group; they’re accustomed to making reservations online,” says Chris Thompson, executive director, membership programs, Intrawest Resort Club Group. “We knew Members would want to exchange online, but Interval has made it possible for them to exchange using their Club Intrawest Resort Points in a single seamless transaction. They adapted their system to work with ours, and our Members are reaping the benefits.”
From the beginning, Interval International has added value to shared-ownership products, so it’s no surprise that the company’s technology focus helps developers deliver the dream. “Today, over 40 percent of transactions occur online through IntervalWorld.com,” says Bryan Ten Broek, Interval’s senior vice president of business development. “We have made a very significant investment in technology that benefits both our affiliates and our members. The technology itself can be a very effective sales tool.”
It’s not a one-size-fits-all system. “We configure our technology platform to meet our affiliates’ unique business needs,” says Lori Card-King, vice president of quality assurance for Interval. “Our Web-based service-desk application, iServices, allows us to enhance customer service through more customized communication and to power programs for resorts through a more user-friendly interface.”
Here Perspective takes a look at just some of the ways Interval’s technology leadership is helping resort developers to sell the dream – and make it a reality.
Interval played a role in Hyatt’s entry into vacation ownership in 1994, and remains dedicated to providing its members with innovative programs and the highest levels of customer service. The companies worked together to design its vacation club structure. “In the beginning, Interval provided invaluable information to help us shape our points-based product offering,” said Alan Reed, vice president of information technology, Hyatt Residential Group. “Their technology allows us to present inventory in Hyatt points values, which is easier for members. No conversions are necessary. Our members understand how to transact online to get to where they want to go in Interval’s network.”
Today, there are 15 Hyatt Residence Club properties located across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, all offering world-class Hyatt hospitality. A new property, the 131- unit Hyatt Kaanapali Beach in Maui, is anticipated to open in 2014.
How might Interval technology impact future exchange activity? “We are exploring real time Web applications and other digital content services that can be of assistance in vacation planning,” says Reed. “We envision future opportunities to integrate more online services that will benefit our members.”
With three distinct product offerings, The Cottages, The Townes, and The Estates, all located at King’s Creek Plantation in Williamsburg, Va., King’s Creek Plantation LLC wanted to add flexibility and choice to its product mix. “We knew that would give us a competitive edge,” says Kevin Jones, president. “Often our owners come for shorter stays, and they lose the days they don’t use.”
Instead of starting from scratch, King’s Creek partnered with Interval to create its points-based club product and provide back-of-the-office services such as reservations for 16,000 members. “King’s Creek was able to extend this new found flexibility to Interval’s entire network of resorts. The entire program was customized from start to finish for our company and our resorts,” Jones says. “We can focus on the specialized pieces that we do best; there was no reason to re-create something Interval could do so well.”
The plan worked. “The integration was seamless, not only for our staff, but also for our owners,” he says. “Our legacy owners are converting to the new program, Club Explore, even faster than we planned.”
Interval’s technology also plays a role on the sales floor. Online demonstrations of traditional exchange, ShortStay Exchange®, and Getaway offers combine with Interval HD, Interval’s channel of high-definition resort and destination videos, to help make the sale. “Our salespeople have prospects go to a touch screen and pick where they want to go, and then we show them how their purchase can translate into their dream vacation,” Jones says. “Our first-time purchasers can see that one week in a three-bedroom can become that international trip. They can see exactly how simple it is to take a two-week vacation by exchanging their one week’s points value.”
“The trend is away from the pencil pitch,” Ten Broek says. “Now, it’s Web demos and real-time searches that allow our developer clients to show points in action. To capitalize on this trend, we’re creating digital content for use across multiple platforms at the point of sale. It’s all about the content.”
Interval HD has also been an effective tool for generating in-bound exchange guests. “The channel covers not just our resorts, but also the surrounding area,” Jones says. “With the assurance of interesting area activities, many in-bound guests say it helped them decide to come to Williamsburg.”
High-Tech and High-Touch
Before inbound-exchange guests arrive at Club Sunset Boutique’s Interval-affiliated resorts in Cancún, Mexico, they’re contacted by a concierge representative. Club Sunset Boutique offers a variety of on-site options
for visitors, which include area tours, spa treatments, equestrian activities, water sports, and private yacht rentals. Interval’s iServices technology offers affiliates an enhanced level of service as they access their owners’ member information while providing layers of security.
“The iServices platform enables us to contact guests prior to their arrival so they can make the most of their Mayan adventure,” says Erika Garcia, vice president, marketing and sales, Sunset Boutique Hotels. “The tool is very user-friendly; our personnel access the most up-to-date information in real time.”
Another online resource that is proving to be popular with Sunset members is Interval Community. With more than 160,000 profiles, it’s one of the largest timeshare social networking forums in the world. “It helps them to connect with other vacation owners to get more information on resorts, destinations, and travel tips,” says Anna Kiseleva, vice president of customer care and fulfillment, Sunset Boutique Hotels. “It also helps them learn how to best use the exchange system and benefits. Even if they have heard it from the sales people and Interval experts, it’s more credible when it comes from another member, someone who’s personally using the benefits.”
Point of Pride
Delivering the technology developers need to be successful is always the goal for Interval, and the recent technology integration between Club Intrawest and Interval illustrates that they have achieved it. In addition to allowing Club Intrawest Members to exchange in their own club’s Resort Points currency, Members seamlessly move back and forth between the two companies’ systems while they transact their business.
For example, a Member who logs in on the Club Intrawest site can request an exchange from Interval using Club Intrawest Resort Points, borrow Resort Points from a coming year to achieve the exchange they prefer, and authorize payment of their resort dues for that year (to release the Resort Points) in one seamless transaction. “Our Members don’t know they’re going back and forth between our site and Interval’s,” Thompson says. “Interval understood what we did and adapted its system to work with ours.”
The proof is in the exchanges. “Since launching last year in June, 60 percent of our Members’ exchanges have been made online, and the bulk of them are doing instant exchanges, which we like much better than request and wait,” he says. “They get what they want without the wait, and we think that’s better for our Members.”
Another big hit with the Intrawest sales team is a customized mobile app for Interval’s Entertainment® Hotel, Dining, and Leisure Discounts program, which allows Members to use their smartphones to search and filter offers based on their present GPS positions or by manually entering a location. “Our membership representatives can pull up offers by location and show guests what discounts are in the vicinity,” Thompson says. “In one sales center, an Eddie Bauer store nearby gives a 15 percent discount they can access with their smartphone rather than having to clip coupons.”
With filming underway to add Club Intrawest resorts to the Interval HD channel, Thompson says, “I think we’re just scratching the surface of what we can achieve together. We have just been so pleased with the entire process, and our Member response has been great.”
Tools for Developer Clients and Consumer Members at the Point of Sale and Beyond
Attention to technology has been an integral component of Interval International’s service creed since the company’s earliest days. In 1980, Interval introduced an operating platform to facilitate exchange activity and operations. At the time, that move was welcomed as revolutionary and forward- looking. In the 1990s, Interval was the first major vacation exchange company to establish a presence on the Internet. Today, IntervalWorld.com is the place for members to go for vacation exchange and a variety of other services. In fact, Interval’s technology investment has resulted in a high level of member online adoption, and the percentage of online confirmations has continued to grow year after year.
Here are some tech tools that help Interval achieve its overriding goal: giving clients and members what they want, when they want it, and how they want it delivered.
Interval’s user-friendly website, available in seven languages, features a variety of rich content. Members can search the online Resort Directory in nine languages – 15 are offered in print – request exchanges, deposit weeks, purchase affordable Getaway vacations, book tours and other travel services, and more. For members needing assistance, video tutorials are available.
Interval HD is an online video channel featuring resort videos and destination overviews. It assists resort clients using multimedia presentations at their sales tables to bring to life the benefits of exchanging to a broad range of locations. It also helps travelers to visualize their next dream vacations. Content is a click away on IntervalWorld.com, and provides compelling images that highlight Getaways and some of the exciting destinations and high-quality resorts that are part of the Interval network.
Interval Community, the social network available on IntervalWorld.com, allows Interval members to exchange information, post photos, and share vacation experiences in real time. With more than 160,000 member profiles, it’s one of the largest timeshare social networking forums in the world.
Members on the go will have a number of digital tools at their disposal, including a mobile version of IntervalWorld.com that allows them to search for and confirm exchanges in real time. Interval’s smartphone application for AndroidTM, Blackberry®, iPhone®, and iPad® devices lets users search resorts in Interval’s global network; find properties within a selected range; see photos, resort amenities, and interactive maps; and get other details from the palm of their hand. It’s free and easy to use.
iServices is Interval’s Web-based service- desk application that allows active affiliated resort clients to meet customer needs faster and more efficiently through a user-friendly interface. A multimillion dollar re-engineering of Interval’s core systems using a Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) framework, the platform enhances the ability to quickly adapt to changes in the marketplace with varied product offerings. It also positions partners for the future by scaling easily to handle growth and to create new processes and applications.
Exchange Access System (EASy)
Interval provides resort clients a convenient way to link directly to its exchange system. Through a self- service portal on ResortDeveloper.com, users can access this real-time tool to update and verify key owner information, view inbound guest information, enroll or renew memberships, verify and release owner deposits, review owners’ activity with Interval, check the status of pending requests, and deposit and assign inventory to owner accounts.