Since 2007, Airbnb’s grown to serve 4 million hosts who’ve welcomed more than 900 million guests into their homes. The company’s completely transformed the hospitality industry. They changed how people travel and enjoy time away from home. And, they’ve given other companies the best example of what a good customer experience looks like.
As an Airbnb guest, you get to experience what it may truly be like to live wherever you visit. Whether it’s Miami, Florence, London, Tokyo — in any of the 65,000 cities in 191 countries where Airbnb has a presence — you get a taste of the local flavor.
Sometimes when I’m bored, I open my Airbnb app and dream up potential vacations. I have multiple homes saved in different cities just in case I get the chance to visit. My husband and I love to travel and almost always use Airbnb. We’ve stayed in all kinds of homes: in Rome, Florence, Asheville, Munich, and more. Our hosts have welcomed us with fresh flowers, a bottle of wine, and they’ve given recommendations for some of the best meals we’ve ever had.
Airbnb makes travel easier for guests and gives millions of hosts a chance to share their space, their passions, and their interests with travellers from all over the world. Airbnb has managed to cultivate trust with their customers and sell an unforgettable experience. I’m a fan of Airbnb and I’m not the only one. We’re crushing on Airbnb and compiled 4 examples of why they’re on our list of companies with the best customer experience.
Example #1: They build trust by extending trust
Airbnb’s entire business model is built on trust. The model relies on connecting strangers with strangers all over the world. Then, trusting that those strangers are perfectly comfortable opening their homes to travelers. The company has to trust hosts will follow through on promises and provide safe and comfortable lodging for guests (after proper vetting, of course). And, they have to trust that guests will respect and care for the spaces they visit. There’s certainly a lot of risk involved, but Airbnb has found a balance in trust that drives success.
Trust is incredibly important for building customer loyalty and for company growth. According to Khronos, 53% of customers say they won’t buy from a company they don’t trust and 56% will openly criticize companies they don’t trust. Airbnb has avoided both of these consequences because they’ve built incredible customer trust and customer loyalty despite the many risks of their model.
How does Airbnb create trust with so much at stake?
Dr. Joseph Michelli, author of The Airbnb Way, explains the many times in our society when we trust strangers during an experience. We trust strangers when we give someone our credit card at a restaurant or when we get in a cab or an Uber. Airbnb operates on this same societal trust.
Really, the only part of the customer experience Airbnb has full control over is their website. Beyond that, Airbnb uses a system of social proof to build trust with users. With a robust, yet simple review system, Airbnb encourages all of their guests to leave reviews following a stay. The survey asks guests to rate six elements of their stay: accuracy of information, communication from the host, cleanliness, convenience of location, ease of check-in, and the overall value.
Results from these reviews are public, giving future guests a sense of security in their transactions. With this system of social proof, Airbnb gains the trust of millions of users worldwide.
Example #2: They include their customers in decision making
Every year, Airbnb employees and hosts meet together at a 3-day event called “One Airbnb” to hear talks, build community, and discuss the successes and challenges of the previous year. This space is a time to learn from one another and look ahead to future developments.
At these events, the company learns what customers think of their policies. At all leadership levels, they get a chance to hear reactions and feedback from customers and employees. Simultaneously, their customers get to be part of the mission of the brand. Their network of hosts gets to build an understanding of the company — to see how it works and what the goals are — so they learn how to support the company and grow together.
This strategy focuses on Airbnb’s main customer — their hosts — allowing them to shape the company’s direction. This customer-focused strategy is also clearly working well for employees as 92% of them recommend Airbnb as a place to work.
Example #3: They’re always available with 24/7 help
It’s a bit of a nightmare to think of all the possible problems Airbnb support agents must handle, all over the world, 24/7. Their model invites a challenge — how do you support millions of customers worldwide? How do you empower thousands of customer service agents in 20 different locations to serve both guests and hosts? Airbnb sets an example in delivering amazing customer service.
Airbnb uses their Global Customer Experience team to deliver a positive customer experience that begins on the Airbnb website and continues for the duration of every guest’s stay. Using an omnichannel experience, Airbnb offers agile and modern ways for customers to communicate when they need help.
Using bots and live agents, the company offers 24/7 support by phone, email, social media, and in-app messaging. According to Zendesk, who supports Airbnb, the company gets over 7 million customer service tickets in a year. They’re known to answer calls in less than a minute and answer most emails in up to 24 hours. They are quick and eager to answer questions while also offering self-service tools for those who can’t wait.
With their newly redesigned help center, customers have hundreds of FAQs and articles available and neatly categorized. Whether you’re a guest booking a stay, a host hosting an experience or a home, or have questions about how to book company travel, there are hundreds of helpful resources.
Example #4: They create a culture of belonging
Airbnb’s mission is devoted to making employees and customers feel they can belong anywhere in the world. This mission of belonging drives every decision company leaders make about their culture. They care deeply about their employees being part of the team, and they deliver on this in a few key ways:
- They’ve committed to an open dialogue at the company. Airbnb’s leadership team communicates changes and announcements with employees before taking them public. This open dialogue between leadership and employees creates loyalty over time and sets a tone for candor at the company.
- They prioritize employee recognition. Airbnb is a big company with offices all over the world. One way they bridge the vast network they have is through a robust employee intranet. They connect employees wherever they’re located, give shout-outs and recognition, celebrate birthdays and anniversaries, and share company wins. In addition to this, each office has a “ground control” team tasked with location-based celebrations and building a successful culture.
- They connect employees during onboarding. As soon as an individual makes it through interviews and gets an offer, the new hire goes through a week-long check-in process where they learn about Airbnb’s values, strategies, and ways of working. The coolest part is, they go through this process with a group of other recent hires. Together, they form a team that progresses their careers together. They connect over lunches and meetings to catch up and support one another as they pursue their personal career goals.