This week we feature an article by Joseph Michelli who has written a new book about how Airbnb has used convenience and personalization to deliver an amazing experience. Years ago, while writing my book The Starbucks Experience – 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz shared that “we aren’t in […]
This week we feature an article by Joseph Michelli who has written a new book about how Airbnb has used convenience and personalization to deliver an amazing experience.
Years ago, while writing my book The Starbucks Experience – 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz shared that “we aren’t in the coffee business serving people, but in the people business serving coffee.” Unfortunately, many senior leaders, managers, and frontline team members don’t understand that every business is a people business.
As a reader of Shep’s blog, I’ll assume you know you’re in the people business. In fact, you probably spend time trying to inspire people (yourself and team members) to serve and create loyalty-building experiences for other people (customers). This type of effort likely has placed you on a challenging yet rewarding journey toward customer experience excellence.
From my perspective, success in delivering memorable customer experiences begins with a deep understanding of the evolving wants, needs, and desires of the customers you seek to serve. To give you a sense of the speed of changing customer preferences, I will harken back to 2008 when McGraw-Hill published my book The New Gold Standard 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. Having written prior books about experience strategies at retail brands like Starbucks, I was eager to examine how leaders at the Ritz-Carlton (an iconic hospitality brand) were reconceptualizing their service delivery to meet changing lifestyles and expectations of luxury travelers. While I was writing my book, two design students and a software engineer were starting a company called Airbnb. The name is inspired by the first listing on the platform – a spare room in a San Francisco apartment of founders Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia.
When a roommate moved out of their shared apartment, Chesky and Gebbia were looking for a way to make rent using that spare room. Knowing that a major design conference was coming to San Francisco, the pair crafted a rudimentary website targeted to conference attendees and offered guests the opportunity to sleep on one of three air mattresses and enjoy uncooked pop tarts and orange juice. From those humble beginnings, Chesky and Gebbia partnered with their friend Nathan Blecharcyzk to streamline the web platform and officially launch Airbnb in 2008.
Just over a decade later, estimates of Airbnb’s valuation range from 31 to 38 billion dollars (which is similar to the parent company of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company – the Marriott Corporation, which has an estimated valuation of 40 billion dollars). Unlike Marriott, Airbnb has garnered its financial success without owing any of the properties that guests book on the Airbnb platform.
So, how did Airbnb gain its footing and disrupt the travel industry? How have leaders at Airbnb crafted a 21st-century customer experience? If you want the full answer, you’ll want to pick up my latest McGraw-Hill book, The Airbnb Way – 5 Leadership Principles for Igniting Growth through Loyalty, Community, and Belonging. For the short answer, I will link to concepts Shep regularly champions in his writings, particularly as they relate to convenience, personalization, and personal care (in fact, I reference Shep’s book The Convenience Revolution in my new book about Airbnb).
Airbnb has leveraged technology to create its marketplace of convenience and personalization by assuring that load times for the website are among the fastest in their sector, the design of their app is optimized for speed of navigation, and artificial intelligence personalizes search results based on the past behavior and preferences of a guest. Additionally, leaders at Airbnb seek to inspire and provide tools to their global host community so those hosts will deliver hospitality (defined at Airbnb as “service with heart”) and an experience in keeping with Airbnb’s vision – to create a world where anyone can belong anywhere.
By blending the best of technology tools (to deliver convenience and personalization) and the best hospitality tools (to inspire service with heart and personal care), Airbnb leaders have crafted a business that appeals to a generation of people seeking magical and memorable end-to-end travel. They have built a 21st-century customer experience The Airbnb Way and so can you!
Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.
For more articles from Shep Hyken and his guest contributors go to customerserviceblog.com.
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