Empowerment is More than a Management Catchphrase | Customer Experience Excellence – The Airbnb Way

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This is the fourth in a 5-post series titled “Customer Experience Excellence – The Airbnb Way.”

This week we continue to journey through key concepts found in my 10 leadership books by diving back into our cursory review of my book titled The Airbnb Way – 5 Leadership Lessons for Igniting Growth through Loyalty, Community, and Belonging. Last week we touched on hospitality. This week we will spotlight empowerment and next week we will round out this series by discussing community.

In The Airbnb Way, I write the following concerning empowerment: 

So, what do I mean by empowerment? The origin of the word “empower “dates as far back as the 1400s and can be found in John Milton’s 1667 classic poem “Paradise Lost.” Despite a lengthy history, the concept of empowerment only really started to gain traction in a broader social context less than 50 years ago. In an article for the Journal of Extension titled “Empowerment: What Is It?” authors Nanette Page and Cheryl Czuba define it this way: Empowerment is a construct shared by many disciplines and arenas: community development, psychology, education, economics, and studies of social movements and organizations, among others…the meaning of the term empowerment is often assumed rather than explained or defined. As a general definition, however, we suggest that empowerment is a multi-dimensional social process that helps people gain control…It is a process that fosters power…in people, for use in their own lives, their communities, and in their society, by acting on issues that they define as important. 

At the core of Airbnb’s value proposition is empowerment. The platform enables people to use the economic power of their homes to generate revenue. In fact, Airbnb leaders have crafted an “Economic Empowerment Agenda.” According to leaders at Airbnb, the context for that agenda is as follows: At a time of growing economic inequality, Airbnb is democratizing capitalism and creating economic opportunities for the middle class, using technology to help connect and empower our community—not replace it. Our people-for-people platform allows ordinary people to use their house—typically their greatest expense—to generate supplemental income to pay for costs like food, rent, and education for their children. 

In North America alone: 

  • U.S. hosts on the platform earned an average of $6,100 annually 
  • 62% of U.S. hosts reported home-sharing helped them afford their home, and
  • 12% of North American hosts claimed home-sharing saved them from foreclosure or eviction

In The Airbnb Way, I go beyond the macroeconomics of the platform and explore how leaders enable and empower their teams, hosts, and guests. Since that discussion falls outside the scope of this post, let’s turn to challenge questions that are relevant to your business.

  • Since empowerment is a multi-dimensional social process that helps people gain control and foster power, what processes do you have in place to foster power and control for your team members and customers?
  • Often, we think about customer experience excellence and customer service as “doing things for customers,” what are some ways you are serving customers by helping them take care of issues for themselves?
  • Would your team members consider you an empowering leader? If so, what behaviors would they point to?

I hope you’ll consider purchasing The Airbnb Way or if you already own the book, I would appreciate you providing a review on Amazon. You can also schedule a time to talk about the empowerment of team members and customers. Until next week, may you elevate your customer experience The Airbnb Way!

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