Behind every brand delivering simpler experiences for customers is a leader who recognizes the inherent value in keeping things simple. In Simplifiers, Margaret Molloy interviews business leaders who put simplicity to work. Here, she speaks with Noah Brodsky, Chief Brand Officer, Wyndham Destinations.
Margaret Molloy: What is Wyndham Destinations?
Noah Brodsky: Wyndham Destinations is the world’s largest vacation ownership and vacation exchange company. We have five vacation club brands—our two iconic brands, Club Wyndham and WorldMark by Wyndham, as well as Margaritaville Vacation Club, Shell Vacations Club, and Presidential Reserve. On the vacation exchange side, we have RCI, the world’s first and largest timeshare exchange network.
Between our vacation ownership which has about 900,000 owner families, and RCI, which has over 4 million-member families around the world, we put millions of people on vacation in countries on every continent around the world every year.
MM: What does Wyndham Destinations stand for?
NB: Our mission is to put the world on vacation. We are a pure vacation leisure travel company. We love getting people out to have the escape that they dream of and deserve.
MM: How do you deliver on that promise every day?
NB: Our mission is getting new people to join our vacation clubs to make lifelong memories, and ensuring our existing owners are utilizing their points to travel the world.
We make it as easy as possible for people to use those points, and we make it as simple as we can for customers to understand what they are buying. It’s all about making sure people can book when they want, where they want, how they want.
MM: What role does simplicity play on that promise?
NB: Timeshares have become extremely complicated over the last 50 years. It started simply but, sometime in the Nineties, it developed into a point-based system. Ironically, by adding flexibility, it became more complicated.
Today, that point system and trade economy have matured. Our role is to simplify the experience for both existing and new customers. We make redeeming points as smooth and seamless as in any other consumer experience.
On the back end, through our digital team, our website experience, and even marketing messages, we spend a great deal of time ensuring the customer experience is as seamless as possible.
MM: What benefits has Wyndham Destinations experienced from simplifying?
NB: One of our key statistics is tracking how many new owners make a reservation within the first 90 days of their purchase. We have seen substantial growth in that metric over the last 18 months. We need to make certain that all of our owners, particularly new owners, are getting out and traveling.
Moreover, as we’ve simplified our web experience and digital products, we have witnessed a substantial improvement in our satisfaction ratings.
MM: As a marketing leader, how do you keep things “simple” for your team?
NB: “Make it easy” is one of our mantras here at Wyndham. It’s something we live by every day—we even put it on t-shirts! It started with reshaping our brand messaging. For our corporate brand, Wyndham Destinations, we have a simple message—”We put the world on vacation.” For our two largest customer brands, Club Wyndham and WorldMark by Wyndham, we developed equally strong defining brand positioning statements. Club Wyndham is “Live Your Bucket List”; WorldMark by Wyndham is “More time to share.”
Each distinct brand positioning sets the stage for ensuring that everything we do with that property, whether it is from a marketing, creative, or digital perspective, delivers on a simple, clear brand promise.
We also strive to make the employee experience more transparent and empowering for our teams. For example, we recently remodeled our space and removed the drywall between offices, replacing it with glass. It’s now easier to collaborate. Everyone is more aware of the projects that we’re all working on, and we stay focused on the core value propositions of each of our brands.
MM: Personally speaking, what’s the most recent simple customer experience that inspired or impressed you?
NB: I have a three-year-old, so I spend a lot of time at the theme parks here in Orlando. One of the things that Disney World does amazingly well is their Disney PhotoPass service. Every single photographer in the park is equipped with a mobile device that connects to the guest’s MagicBand, instantly linking photos to your account. It’s all automatic and happens seamlessly. Gone are the days of chasing down pictures at the end of a long day.
MM: What are some of the biggest mistakes that brands make with regards to simplifying?
NB: My background is in loyalty. One of the things I learned from talking to hundreds of customers over the course of a decade, is that there is a particular set of consumers who prefer “expert mode” and want to understand all the intricacies of the rules, while others want a quick transaction.
We were careful that with Wyndham Rewards, our savvy customers could still maximize their perceived value of the program, without sacrificing simplicity for the majority of our other customers.
Ultimately, there’s no one-size-fits-all. When companies strive for simplicity for the masses, be sensitive of your most passionate fans.
MM: Any recent examples of a difficult decision that you made at Wyndham Destinations, that you had to make for the sake of simplicity?
NB: Recently, we reviewed our owners’ digital customer experience during the first year of ownership, and we discovered that owners were receiving an exorbitant amount of emails from Wyndham.
For example, we have one program whereby people can purchase the bedding that we have at all of our resorts. However, we found we were sending emails advertising our bedding before people before even slept in them! Our primary goal during the owners’ first 90 days isn’t to purchase bedsheets, but to get them to book their first vacation.
Our enterprise metric is more owners getting on vacation in their first 90 days of ownership. Selling them bedding, while profitable, does not drive that core KPI. There was too much complexity and, in an effort, to simplify, we had to pare down.
MM: What does “simplicity” mean to you?
NB: Make it easy. We think about that both for our customers and associates. When there are too many processes, we have to put ourselves in our customers’ shoes to make it easier for them; make it easier for the phone representatives and make it easier for the front desk agents. If people could say, “that was really easy,” then we achieved our goal of simplicity.
MM: What advice would you give other brands trying to simplify?
NB: As I mentioned earlier, it’s about empathizing and putting yourself in the customers’ shoes. I visit our sales center regularly; I am out there experiencing what our customers do and walking in with as fresh a set of eyes as I can.
To continually put yourself in your customers’ shoes is one of the best methods of reminding yourself of where those pain points exist.
MM: Thank you, Noah.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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