The call of growth: RCI is a global provider of leisure travel services to businesses and consumers, and the worldwide leader in vacation exchange. In autumn 2009, the company transferred key call center services that had previously been handled by the company's centralized call center in Cork, Ireland, back to Finland.
In 1974, RCI pioneered the concept of exchange vacations. Since then, millions of timeshare owners have discovered that an RCI subscribing membership really enhances the quality of vacation ownership.
Today, RCI has more than three million members worldwide, who enjoy dream vacations at RCI's over 3,700 affiliated resorts. These timeshare owners and resorts are a unique community of travel enthusiasts with the common bond of a lifetime commitment to quality vacations through timeshare.
In Europe, according to RCI Finland Regional Director Riitta Apiola, RCI’s market share is close to 70%, which means that RCI handles eight out of every ten vacation exchanges. At the same time, seven of each ten resorts are affiliated to RCI.
Finland – one of RCI’s fast-growing markets
According to Jeff Cummings, Vice President Operations RCI EME, Finland is one of RCI’s fastest growing markets, and the local resort developer, Holiday Club Resorts Oy, is one of the single biggest providers of new RCI members. “When I came to Europe six years ago and began working at RCI’s Call Center in Cork, we had only a few agents serving Finland. Today it is one of our largest departments,” says Jeff.
In fact, Finns were actively buying timeshare accommodations already in the early 1990s, when RCI Finland set up a local office to provide services in Finnish. “At that point, the timeshare business had a bad reputation due to unfortunate cases of fraud. Today, the climate is much better. For example, we receive no or very few sale-related complaints in Finland,” points out Riitta Apiola.
One explanation for this positive change is the active work of Finland’s National Chapter of RDO (Resort Development Organisation), which monitors the timeshare business and promotes consumer awareness. “In Finland, the public is very educated on what timeshare is and are consequently making more purchases,” says Jeff.
"Today, Finns mainly purchase timeshare in Finland. In this way, they receive all purchase documents and legal papers in their own language. Spain and Portugal are also regions, where Finns own timeshare in high quality resorts. Of course, the standard of the resort is very important. If the resort does not meet our strict quality standards, we remove it from our system,” says Riitta Halme, Affiliate Support Manager.
In 1999, RCI transferred its local member service from Finland to Cork, Ireland. Back then, companies were expected to create economies of scale by centralizing call-center operations. RCI, however, kept its site service and local business development unit in Finland. This turned out to be a smart move, as ten years later, Holiday Club Resorts Oy is now one of Europe’s biggest Resort Developers and one of RCI fastest growing developers. It was based on this rapid growth that RCI took the decision to relocate 12 agents back to the Finnish Office. “We wanted to support Holiday Club Resorts Oy and also see if this would have a positive impact on the business,” adds Jeff.
The new Helsinki site is also a good opportunity to retain Finnish-speaking RCI employees longer. In the past, many of the agents recruited from Finland would stay in Ireland for less than a year before returning home. Riitta Apiola points that it is much easier to get more committed and longer tenured employees for the office located in Finland. In fact, the well trained and experienced staff gives significant credibility to the company.
RCI’s future in Finland is looking good. Sales continue to grow and and Holiday Club Resorts and other Finnish affiliates are bringing in new members. “I can definitely see us expanding our operations in Finland,” says Jeff. He also expects the bigger market in Northern Europe – especially Sweden – to grow significantly in the coming years.
For Riitta Apiola, RCI’s decision to move back is proof that Finland can deliver results. “Finns are effective when it comes to getting things done. Our staff is competent and highly educated. In fact, we can handle calls from other centers, because we always have someone online who can speak French or German, in addition to English and Swedish. Now that’s what I call good service."
by: Tommi Koivisto, Maria Arruda