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How Airbnb’s customer experience disrupts travel and hospitality

Feb 05 2018

Industry disruptors are often seen as challengers to traditional organisations, but what can you learn from them to optimise your own CX strategy? 

Airbnb has been cited by industry leaders as a disruptor within travel and hospitality. Not only that, but their differentiated approach to customer experience impacts other verticals too. What makes this relatively new business stand out so much in the market? And how can customer experience leaders learn from that model to adapt their own? 

“Uber, the world’s largest taxi company, owns no vehicles. Facebook, the world’s most popular media owner, creates no content. And Airbnb, the world’s largest accommodation provider, owns no real estate,” Tom Goodwin, SVP of Strategy and Innovation at Havas Media, wrote in an article on TechCrunch. 

Success is not just about a strong inventory anymore. 

Airbnb is part of the sharing economy and a huge competitor for traditional organisations within hospitality. They represent an innovative business model that has disrupted entire industries: hospitality, e-commerce and electronic payments. 

How did they do that? One of the key contributors to Airbnb’s boom is their exceptional customer focus. Their extreme personal approach helped them to identify consumers’ needs that had not yet been fulfilled by other companies. 

So, what makes Airbnb so special? 

They engage with each customer segment 

Airbnb’s experience is available at any price point. Prices match every request, which allows engagement with broad customer segments. This way, Airbnb connects with savers, those attracted by low-cost accommodations, families who find traditional hotels too expensive and inconvenient for children, and also more sophisticated customers who are ready to pay more for experiences in some of the world’s most unique homes, such as a Treehouse in Belize City. 

They focus on personalisation

Airbnb is looking to start owning more of its users’ “end-to-end travel experience” by placing a bigger focus on its hosts and customer leisure during the stay. 

Airbnb promotes the idea of culture exchange. It creates chances for hosts to connect with different people across the world. They share their life and travel experiences, as well as each other’s culture; this removes the boundaries and joins people together.

With a slogan “Don’t go there. Live there”, Airbnb aspires people to experience new places just like the locals do. Airbnb is a community-driven marketplace with a mission to unite and connect people from all around the world. 

They also have a new initiative, Airbnb Trips, which provides not only accommodations but also unique experiences. This can take the form of a workshop, for example, a couture journey in New Delhi, or a day trip to a secret surfing location in Malibu organised by locals. 

The new platform lets people offer services such as trips or excursions, and other short experiences. You can filter by category, from the experience you want to have to the place you want to go. This customised approach is not only a great service extension but also allows its customers (guests and hosts) to connect with each other and exchange their skills and interests. 

Airbnb takes the notion of customer experience in a direct meaning. Airbnb Trips gives the customers an opportunity to shape memories, and these emotions transfer into favourable associations with the Airbnb brand itself. 

A customer service build on trust 

Airbnb’s website is the only part of the overall customer experience which is controlled by the company. The whole service is built purely on trust and faith between hosts, renting out their place, and guests who take their accommodations on the platform. 

As expected, social proof plays an integral role in building that trust. For people to spend money on their holiday without a travel agent behind it, great levels of transparency and confidence are required.

To achieve this, hosts do not own their listing on Airbnb and guests can rate and review without fear. Hosts can review back, knowing that bad guests will be called out by other hosts. Reviews are the best way to find whether the room/house is good or bad. 

Airbnb’s review system is trustworthy, and all the reviews are genuine and made by guests after they leave the accommodation. 

User friendliness at each touch point 

When you go to Airbnb website, you are instantly welcomed with a slideshow of warm pictures and a selection of featured experiences and cities. The search bar for a destination keeps a low profile; allowing the visitor to immerse themselves into what Airbnb has to offer. They have easy access to videos of hosts, company information, allowing the customer to get to know what this company is about and what culture stands behind it. 

Airbnb aims to support customers even before they become a Host or a Guest on Airbnb. For example, by helping them arrange travel plans so customers can feel that Airbnb is there every step of their journey. They make each customer feel special and the company strives to surprise and delight them at every touch point. For example, the new feature “Airbnb stories” shares articles and videos featuring both host and guest experiences. 

Conclusion 

The secret to Airbnb's customer service skill hinges on keeping tabs with social media and taking advantage of opportunities to connect with customers in a way that isn't strictly business. They go to great lengths to make their customers feel special. 

Quirkiness, the distinct tone of voice, tailored service… all these shapes customer experience and made Airbnb such an admired brand.

Author: By Sofya Bratus