LeisureLink Focus is on Customers and Technology
As a new Account Manager and previous customer of LeisureLink, I was interested in seeing what the future held for this quickly developing company and so I sat down with the CEO, Julian Castelli, to learn more.
Q: LeisureLink is experiencing accelerated growth and is evolving as a company and a brand daily. What do you attribute this phase to?
A: We are in a fast evolving industry – the vacation rental industry. This industry is undergoing significant changes as large travel distributors like Expedia/HomeAway, Booking.com and Airbnb start to focus on it. This is changing how and where consumers shop and impacting how property managers can generate bookings. We are evolving our service offering to meet the needs of this dynamic environment. We offer property managers an easy way to take advantage of all of these new distribution channels without adding more work and complexity.
Q: Already an industry pace-setter, how do you separate LeisureLink from others competing in this space?
A: Our top priority is execution – one of our biggest differentiators. There are others in the market claiming to do similar things, but no one is generating bookings for customers at the scale we are. We’ve generated over $1 billion in bookings for property managers and expect to generate over $200 million this year alone. To generate that type of volume takes very strong execution. That is why we are investing in our operations capabilities and our new technology platform.
Another differentiator that we are proud of is our ability to work with both key-level and representative level inventory. That is a big hole in the marketplace. Suppliers generally merchandise their inventory one way based on how their PMS works, thus limiting the channels that they are able to access. Our new Blue platform will allow suppliers to merchandise their inventory both ways for optimal listing placement on each channel. We think this will be a very big deal because it will significantly expand the distribution reach and booking generation for our customers.
Q: What is happening in operations and how are you evolving this department?
A: The biggest focus for LeisureLink in 2016 is to invest in and scale our operations capability so we can handle the additional volume we are experiencing and improve the customer service we provide to our clients. We are investing in new technology platforms to provide more automation around the way we gather content data from our customers and syndicate that information to our distribution network. We are also adding new tools to track onboarding progress and individual property performance so we can find new ways to generate more bookings for property managers. And of course, we are adding great people to the team. We are adding staff to our operations team, our customer service team and are excited to announce the creation of a new department – the Customer Success team.
Q: LeisureLink is recognized for their commitment to their clients’ success and listening to the needs and challenges of their customers when developing products and services like LeisureLink FastPay and Marketspan Mobile App. Will client input, outreach and education continue to be a priority for LeisureLink in 2016?
A: Absolutely. We are in the process of rolling out our new key-level platform that will offer some really unique capabilities and tools for our clients. Right now we are working with several clients to beta-test the platform. It is a very exciting process as we get feedback from them in real time, and often modify the platform to better meet their expressed needs within weeks! This process will help make our products and services even better.
Q: Property managers always have pricing and reservation modification dispute resolution in the back of their minds since it costs them both time and money. How are you addressing these concerns?
A: This is one of the big challenges that lodging suppliers learn about once they start working with multiple online travel agencies. When you have large volumes of transactions with multiple third parties, there are going to be errors, discrepancies and occasionally disputes that create a lot of work and can cost significant money.
One of the biggest benefits of our Managed Distribution product is the “we do it for you” element. Today at LeisureLink, we process hundreds of exceptions every day in an effort to pass along clean, streamlined bookings to our property managers. As our volume grows, this workload grows and we are making significant investments to add more automation to this process.
The goal with our new platform is to add more speed and transparency to this process. In other words, we want to identify the discrepancy quickly and we want to provide the property manager with the exact details of the transaction in real time. We can’t always solve the discrepancy, since they arise with third parties, but we can be more transparent in regard to when they occur and how we are going to respond to them. For example, we may publicize a series of codes for the type of discrepancy, and have a pre-selected rule for how to deal with each type. When the property manager can see those specifics, they can take comfort in knowing what caused the discrepancy and how we are handling it. If they see a trend that they don’t like, that may prompt them to log in and change the rule governing the response. In this way, we let the property manager retain the control of how to resolve each discrepancy, while LeisureLink does the work to implement each resolution.
Q: As the company grows, what are your first priorities and how will this make the customer experience even better?
A: I am really excited about what we are doing to optimize our team structure for customer success. In fact, we now have created a department called the Customer Success Team. This group, formerly called Account Management, is getting a lot of attention since they have the most important job in the Company – taking care of our customers! We have hired a new Vice President of Customer Success – LaMonte Jenson, and have added several additional Account Managers and Account Coordinators to this department. This is a group of real industry experts – many of them have worked at the top OTAs or as a supplier using distribution directly for years. This group is structured geographically so we have full customer coverage with groups on the East Coast, Mountain Region and West Coast in addition to an umbrella group covering our national accounts.