Collection Strategies, Owner Retention, and Loyalty

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The collections process for HOAs is a diligent one that is handled strategically and sometimes calls for legal consideration. During the 11/12 Timeshare Board Members Association (TBMA) webinar Collection Strategies, Owner Retention and Loyalty, panelists discussed their approaches to collections, viable options, and timeshare owner loyalty.

The TBMA panel included Kelly Brady-Snyder, Sr. Director of Owner Loyalty, Grand Pacific Resorts; Erin O’Brien, General Manager, Red Wolf Lakeside Lodge, CA; and Virginia Mula, HOA Account Loyalty Manager, Grand Pacific Resorts.

The Cycle of Collections

Throughout the year, there is a typical collections cycle for HOAs. For example, from February through June, collections are handled in-house via automated calls, outbound dial lists, skip trace efforts and collections letters. July to September is the beginning of third-party placements as house collection efforts continue. October to December is time to manage third-party collections and make last ditch efforts for the year-end close out. Finally, from November to December, HOAs send out bill reminders – both emails and snail mail – and make inbound collections calls, if January 1 is the due date.

To do this effectively, a game plan is required. Brady-Snyder started the conversation by saying, “We need to collaborate from a delinquency standpoint with the general managers of the resorts, so we are aligned in our goal. We have a team that does HOA collections, and we have a goal set. When that due date hits January 1, it’s go-time. We see how many people have paid and what we’re dealing with in collections.”

O’Brien believes that the delinquency rate also plays a vital role in the budget process. “Make sure the delinquency goal budget ensures you’re able to adequately generate revenue for the current year’s assessment,” she said. “A resort relies on assessment money coming in. I need to know, as a manager, where we’re going to be at with all the assessments.”

Mula’s approach to collections is to pull the full owners list, and then segment it into smaller pieces. Questions she asks herself during the process include: Did they pay in full last year? Did they make a partial payment last year, and are they going to remain delinquent this year? Are we going to have potential foreclosures with any owners?

“All that goes into the bottom-line number,” Mula said, adding, “February is our big push, when we start connecting with the owners. I like to tackle the big balances first.”

When third-party collections come into play, it’s the beginning of a soft collection effort, according to Brady-Snyder, which she has found to be very successful. And, as a last-ditch effort, if people haven’t come current on their payments, she suggests forgiving debt and getting them back into the billing cycle, possibly with an amnesty program that will keep them as an owner.

She also suggests that collection communications are dependent upon a strong, updated owner roster. That said, she advises that having the most up-to-date address, phone number, and email for every owner.

Collection Call Strategies and Legal Considerations

Pulling a dial list is necessary to know where you started and how you’re going to get to your end goal, is the advice given by Brady-Snyder. “That’s useful advice, no matter how large or small the delinquency is”, she said.

Mula adds that how you reach your year-end goal is important. “I set my goal monthly,” she said. “Be realistic. Have call strategies. Look for alternate numbers if you’re just leaving messages and unable to connect with owners.”

But note, Mula shares, that before calls are made, there are legal considerations. For example:

  • You can only call the same one number once a day.
  • You can call four numbers for the same owner once a day

“The restrictions are there to help us,” she said. “And help the owners so they don’t feel harassed as well.”

Getting a delinquency report each month is what O’Brien looks forward to. She said it shows her how the team is doing. Before board meetings, she meets with Mula, who gives her a breakdown in a neat one-page package.

“It’s very simple for people to read and know what’s going on,” O’Brien said. “We want to make sure owners are happy,” she said. “We’re reaching out to them in a very friendly manner.”

Brady-Snyder agrees with that process and sees hitting the year-end goal as crucial—and a bigger challenge.

Owner Outreach Approach and Engagement

Engaging with owners is key.

It’s what Brady-Snyder does every single day, even when owners are in a delinquent status. “We want them to respond to the email that says, ‘Let’s get you on vacation,’” she said. “We say, ‘I know you have a past due account. Let’s get you over to HOA Account Loyalty. They’re going to take care of you and we’re going to book you on that vacation.’”

O’Brien agreed that if an owner is delinquent, they will still receive the bi-monthly feel-good update in an email blast. This way, they are kept in the loop of what’s going on at the resort. “I’ve been here twenty-two years, and I have special relationships with our owners,” she said.

With COVID-19, O’Brien saw about 20 or 30 homeowners say they couldn’t pay. To get them back on track, she reached out to them personally.

Why? Because she feels that personalized service is a softer, more caring approach to collections. “We do care about our owners,” she said. “It’s very important that we maintain that connection between them and the resort staff. We’re working people too. We’ve been there.”

Getting involved with owners is something Mula also harmonizes with. “Keep everyone updated,” she said. “Always re-engage the owners. If they don’t travel, they don’t see the benefits in something they are not using. Re-educate on what they own. If they don’t understand reservation windows, they are not going to find value in what they are paying for.”

Reasons for Delinquency, Ownership Options, and Deedback Requests

“It’s important to understand the reason behind being delinquent is”, Brady-Snyder pointed out. The reasoning is that you can apply solutions. She said, “What we’re hearing, ‘I just can’t afford it’ or ‘I don’t travel anymore’ just might not be the case. Once they see payment options, it’s a breath of relief. Give them hope, we’re here to work with them. Repaint the picture. If they live in Phoenix, they can travel into Scottsdale or Sedona. Show them, ‘You can.’”

Mula agreed that it just takes some conversation to find out what they can’t afford. “If it’s a severe financial hardship,” she said, “outline a process on how to deal with it.”

While deedbacks may be an option, Mula said it’s not always their go-to option. Re-engagement is first and foremost; and finding out if an owner has attorney representation.

O’Brien concurred, saying that options may not always be clear and that a timeshare can be put into a family trust for extended family to come and use the program. “We’ve turned around quite a few people who thought that the timeshare was over,” she said.

Timeshares are generational and O’Brien said she loves seeing generation after generation visit the resort. “It warms my heart to see that at the resort year after year,” she concluded enthusiastically.

The panelists agreed that timeshare associations should keep in mind that collections are a legal process that requires advice from the resorts’ legal counsel.

This article is a summary of the TBMA Conversations Series Webinar – Collection Strategies, Owner Retention, and Loyalty on 11/12/2020. You can request a recorded video of this webinar by sending an email to staff@tbmassoc.org