Create Belonging | Customer Experience Excellence – The Airbnb Way

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This is the first in a 5-post series.

Before I dive in, please allow me to offer some context. Usually, each content series centers around a central theme. For example, my last series looked at research and tools to drive employee engagement. However, I’ve been receiving many requests to provide posts based on each of my customer experience books, so I am listening to my customers (that would be you) and I’ll start presenting key concepts from my 10 books. I’ll start from my more recent offerings and work backward. I’ll skip my latest release Stronger Through Adversity since I’ve done several posts recently related to the resilience lessons provided in that book. So that takes us to a book I released in late 2019 about Airbnb’s meteoric rise. It was titled The Airbnb Way – 5 Leadership Lessons for Igniting Growth through Loyalty, Community, and Belonging.

As you can imagine, the timing of The Airbnb Way wasn’t optimal, as Airbnb faced its share of challenges with dramatic decreases in travel in the early phases of the pandemic. That said, I believe my work with Airbnb leaders provides important and enduring value across the five areas featured in the book. Namely:

  • Belonging
  • Trust
  • Hospitality
  • Empowerment
  • Community

Each post in this series will focus on one of those themes. Let’s start with belonging. I’m convinced that every person who considers you and your company asks themselves several key questions:

  1. Do they have the products or services that meet my needs?
  2. Does this brand fit me?
  3. Does this brand care about me and/or the community in which I live?

Granted, the degree to which prospective team members or customers consider each of these questions varies based on multiple factors, but the questions are fundamental.

Within microseconds of arrival on your website, during an inquiry call, or arrival in your physical space, prospective team members and customers begin to get answers to questions about their fit with your brand and the degree to which you care about them.

In The Airbnb Way, I share how the founders of Airbnb (Joe Gebbia, Nathan Blecharczyk, and Brian Chesky) understood that they wouldn’t be successful based on technology alone. They needed their host community to create arrival experiences with more warmth than their hotel competitors.

As CEO Brian Chesky noted, “What started as a way for a few friends to pay the rent has now transformed into something bigger and more meaningful than we ever imagined. And what we realized is that the Airbnb community has outgrown the original Airbnb brand. So Joe, Nate, and I did some soul-searching over the last year. We asked ourselves, “What is our mission? What is the big idea that truly defines Airbnb?” It turns out the answer was right in front of us. For so long, people thought Airbnb was about renting houses. But really, we’re about home. You see, a house is just a space, but a home is where you belong. And what makes this global community so special is that for the very first time, you can belong anywhere. That’s the idea at the core of our company: belonging.”

Brian believes that belonging is less common than at any other time in history and that welcoming behavior is a competitive business advantage, “That’s why Airbnb is returning us to a place where everyone can feel they belong. Like us, you may have started out thinking you were just renting out a room to help pay the bills. Or maybe you were just booking a bed for a night on an unexpected layover. However, you first entered this community, we all know that getting in isn’t a transaction. It’s a connection that can last a lifetime. That’s because the rewards you get from Airbnb aren’t just financial—they’re personal—for hosts and guests alike. At a time when new technologies have made it easier to keep each other at a distance, you’re using them to bring people together. And you’re tapping into the universal human yearning to belong—the desire to feel welcomed, respected, and appreciated for who you are, no matter where you might be. Belonging is the idea that defines Airbnb.”

Based on Brian’s perspective, here are a few challenge questions for you to consider.

  • On a scale from 1-10, with 1 being “Definitely DO NOT belong here.” and 10 being” I definitely DO belong here.” How are your customers experiencing belonging when they visit your website, call you, enter your building, get transferred from team members, transition from sales to service, and in those moments after they have paid for goods or services?
  • How do you know the degree to which customers feel belonging across the previously mentioned touchpoints?
  • What have you done to design and train teams on creating belonging? For example, have you used empathy maps or drill-down maps on arrival and transition touchpoints?

I hope you’ll consider purchasing a copy of The Airbnb Way or if you already own the book writing a review of the book on Amazon. You can also schedule a time to talk about creating belonging in your business. Here’s to every prospective and current team member and customer feeling a deep and genuine sense of belonging.

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