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Customer Experience Scorecard: Airbnb

By: Ed King, VP, Strategy

Airbnb has gotten plenty of press since it arrived on the scene in 2008. They started with a promotional cereal box campaign for each Presidential candidate (don’t laugh, it raised $30,000 which helped them get it off the ground). By the end of 2012, the “community-driven hospitality”company was filling more rooms than all of Hilton Hotels. This announcement was quickly followed by newsworthy legal battles with some jurisdictions.

I will leave the legal battles to the lawyers. I am here to talk customer experience.

I first used the peer-to-peer room rental service on a 3-day vacation jaunt to Simi Valley, California (before the recent Airbnb rebrand). For purposes of this review, my assessment comes from this customer (not homeowner) experience, my observations of their current digital assets (desktop, website and iOS mobile app) and reviews of the service online.

This is my assessment of the Airbnb experience.

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From left to right:

Level 1: Does it work? (0-20 points)

It must live up to the basic promises of functionality. This is usually an all-or-nothing proposition (0 points or 20 points).

Level 2: Is it needed? (0-10 points)

There must be a reason it was created. The experience must be better, cheaper, more efficient, or provide more value than the alternatives.

Level 3: Is it personal? (0-10 points)

We believe technology exists to make us more human, not less. The experience should be human, personal, and add more fulfillment and emotional value to human life.

Level 4: Is it noteworthy? (0-10 points)

Intangibles sometimes make or break a consumer experience. It should fit into society and current trends, and offer a level of connectedness to others that share the experience.

 

HIGHLY SCIENTIFIC SCORING SYSTEM

0-30: WTF Experience

31-40: OK Experience

41-50: Kick-Ass Experience

 

In the spirit of our You&Me philosophy, MaxMedia has developed a simple system of assessing how good (or bad) a consumer experience is. Our graduated model assesses particular aspects that consumers (consciously and subconsciously) look for in an experience.

Looking through this lens, let’s take a look at the all-encompassing Airbnb experience.

 

AirBnB: Does it work? (20 out of 20 points)

Yes, it works. I signed up for an account and booked a room using its desktop interface with no problems whatsoever. My stay met expectations, and the service delivered as promised.

 

AirBnB Is it needed? (10 out of 10 points)

Direct competitors: While Roomorama, Housetrip and istopover all offer short-term, peer-to-peer, room rental services; they are all playing catch-up to Airbnb. One homeowner in Orlando recently posted that he rented 105 times with Airbnb and a combined one time with all the others listed.

Indirect competitors: While I have not personally used any of Airbnb’s direct competitors, I have booked nightly stays directly with hotel sites and with aggregators like hotels.com and Hotwire. Preference is in the eye of the beholder. I suppose some people just wouldn’t want to stay in someone else’s home while on the road. Which is why hotels won’t be going out of business.

For me and millions of others around the world, however, the convenience, price and social interaction that AirBnB affords is a welcome (and sorely needed) innovation in an all-to-often stressful travel life.

Digital Assets: The intuitive interface offers the ability to see the story of the homeowner, send them notes and see peer reviews from past stays. The iOS mobile app interface is designed to allow the customer to explore with a simple flick of the thumb. With one tap, the customer can search for a particular destination and apply filters as desired. An engaging slider bar frames the desired price range, and the app affords all of the search and contact functions of the desktop version.

 

AirBnB: Is it personal? (8 out of 10 points)

Digital Assets: The service is better than most options when it comes to booking a room. An easy-to-use interface and innovative business model delivers a seamless – dare I say pleasant – experience.

The content on the site (and the app) is visually driven. If I had one piece of content criticism it’s that it lacks a bit of personality and edge. You can tell that the lawyers are getting pretty significant input on certain verbiage.

Customer Support: Because I ran into no issues with my experience, I have not needed to call Airbnb to speak to customer support. After a search online and a visit to GetHuman.com, a service that steers customers to the best way to talk to someone at a company, I learned that phone support isn’t necessarily a strength of the service.

There appears to be an average wait time of 18 minutes and many have not been able to resolve their issues on the phone. While the reps seem to be friendly, anecdotally at least, there appears to be a lack of empowerment to solve problems.

Employee Engagement: One of the most-telling markers of a truly human company is how they treat their employees. Through anonymous employee reviews, Glassdoor.com offers a glimpse into how the company treats its employees. By nearly all accounts, it appears that AirBnB is an ethical, caring and inspiring company to work for.

 

AirBnB: Is it noteworthy? (10 out of 10 points)

The most noteworthy companies today lead a movement bigger than themselves. Coming along at the perfect time, Airbnb is spearheading “community-driven hospitality”around the world. The service is breaking down long-held paradigms, interrupting business-as-usual for large, uncaring businesses and bringing people together as they travel around the world.

 

[quote]Total Score: 48 out of 50 — A Kick-Ass Experience[/quote]