Digital Payments Boost Owner Satisfaction, Operating Results

Online Self-Service Improves Customer Experience for vacation owners

As vacation ownership companies focus on improving each stage of the owner experience, many are taking a hard look at their payments processes.

For more budget-friendly options, they are evaluating tweaking the timing, such as moving due dates away from the year-end budget crunch. With annual maintenance fees averaging $1,090, according to ARDA, companies also are looking at frequency, including shifting from annual to quarterly or monthly maintenance fees.

Another big opportunity to enhance owner convenience and remove friction: adding digital and mobile payments.

Owners Expect Digital Options
For vacation ownership companies, adding digital payment options is critical to meeting owner expectations that have been created by  payment experiences in other parts of their lives. Electronic payments for monthly bills are surging, according to the ACI Worldwide Pulse Survey, which polls thousands of consumers every six months. In the second half of 2021, 51% of consumers made payments on biller websites. The number is even higher among older and middle-aged Americans: 53% of boomers and 55% of gen X.

While mail and call centers remain popular, consumers in the ACI survey diversified their payment channels to include:

Biller mobile apps — 25%
Bank website — 28%
Bank mobile app — 14%
Interactive voice response (IVR) phone system — 16%

For growing numbers of consumers, digital and mobile payments are their go-to choices. The reasons? Convenience is the main motive for 50%, while speed is a chief driver for 48%, and simplicity for 43%, ACI found.

To provide greater ease of use and speed for owners, a large vacation ownership company upgraded from a limited online payment solution that required owners to enter their bank account or credit card information every time they wanted to make a payment. It switched to an electronic bill presentment and payment platform with a single sign-on that allows owners to manage their accounts, view their mortgage, annual maintenance, and club dues statements; and make payments. They can opt for one-time payments or automate recurring payments, and in both cases, the system stores preferred payment methods such as ACH or credit card.

Digital Payments Increase Operating Cashflow and Efficiency
Like other digital transformation efforts, the move to electronic payments and processing delivers major operating benefits. Gains include increased automation, productivity, and efficiency, as well as lower costs and improved cash flow.

One vacation ownership company turned to digital phone payments to better handle owner maintenance fees. Before this change, long wait times due to high call volume and limited call-center hours frustrated owners. By adding an always-available IVR option, owners make payments by phone at their convenience, without needing to reveal sensitive financial information to a customer service representative.

Digitally Transform AP and AR

For many vacation-ownership companies, it’s not just account receivables that remain old-school. Handling supplier invoices and distributing payments to vendors and partners is often paper-driven, highly manual, error-prone, and slow, especially as payment methods, terms, channels, and types proliferate. If companies violate payment terms for vendor and partner contracts, they face potential legal, financial, and reputational costs.

Just as with owner payments, moving to digital account payables can deliver significant efficiency and cost savings while improving vendor and partner satisfaction. Electronic payment types cost 30 times less than paper checks, according to AFP Payments Cost Benchmarking Survey.

What’s more, businesses are increasingly expecting the same fast, painless payments process that they experience as consumers. They also want added data security: Paper checks account for 10 times more fraud than electronic payments, AFP Payments Fraud and Control Survey found. Adoption of electronic B2B payments is already much higher outside of the U.S., adding pressure on U.S. companies to adopt digital automatic payment options.

Resorts can save $9 to $15 every time an owner doesn’t need to speak to a customer service representative, according to Hubspot.

Making the Move to Digital Payments
Whether building or buying digital payment capabilities, companies should prioritize a platform that:

  • Accepts ACH, debit/credit cards, PayPal, and other alternative payment methods.
  • Integrates with IVR and offers a CSR portal for call centers.
  • Integrates with billing and incoming mail systems for easy omnichannel management.
  • Offers one-time and recurring payment options.
  • Provides a single sign-on for online account management and payments, or APIs for businesses that want to host their web-user interface.
  • Meets the strictest data security, regulatory, and compliance requirements, including SOC2, SSAE 16, and PCI Level 1.
  • Is cloud-based to facilitate work and administration from anywhere.
  • Enables self-service and control while also offering high levels of support as needed.
  • Provides real-time reporting and data analytics.

Billing and payments are a large part of the vacation owner experience and an opportunity to build relationships. Not all owners want digital and mobile options, but a growing number do. And all want to feel that companies with which they do business know and value them as individuals, not faceless, nameless accounts. Catering to specific communication and payment preferences builds engagement and satisfaction, while removing barriers to payments.

Developments Magazine – Summer 2022