The secrets behind Airbnb’s customer experience – Interview with Joseph Michelli


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Today’s interview is with Joseph A. Michelli, a best-selling author, internationally sought-after speaker and organizational consultant. Joseph joins me today to talk about his new book: The Airbnb Way: 5 Leadership Lessons for Igniting Growth through Loyalty, Community, and Belonging, why he wrote the book, what can we learn from Airbnb and some for the future challenges facing companies trying to deliver a stand out experience.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – Research insights into gathering effective feedback, the use of different metrics and generational differences around channel choice – Interview with Steve Morrell of Contact Babel – and is number 323 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, providing valuable insights, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to both their customers and their employees.

Here’s the highlights of my chat with Joseph:

  • Joseph has just published The Airbnb Way: 5 Leadership Lessons for Igniting Growth through Loyalty, Community, and Belonging.
  • The book is full of stories so that people who are thinking about serving one another, even outside of a formal business setting, might find some principles that are relevant to them.
  • Joseph was given permission by one of Airbnb’s founders, Brian Chesky, to write this book.
  • The book explores 5 principles (belonging, trust, hospitality, empowerment and community) that describe key aspects of Airbnb’s experience.
  • Belonging is at the center of the Airbnb experience. It’s all about making guests feel like they belong.
  • Chip Conley was a big part of helping the Airbnb founders understand that and how it links to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in the early days.
  • Community is an extension of belonging and Douglas Atkin, Global Head of Community at Airbnb, author of The Culting Of Brands and former Chief Community Officer at MeetUp was one of the real drivers behind building Airbnb’s community and their efforts that include initiatives like fighting homelessness or restrictions on their ability to use their homes to generate revenue.
  • Community takes on an element of belonging. But it’s much more about building interconnections based on a purposeful journey and moving that community in a positive way.
  • There’s a brilliant TED talk done by one of the founders, Joe Gebbia called How Airbnb designs for trust.
  • Hospitality is another extension but this time extends the principles of community to next-level service i.e. once you’ve helped your guests belong and you’ve got the basics down then Airbnb help their hosts learn the skills that they need to be able to anticipate the needs of their guests, create an emotional connection and create a magical or memorable travel experience.
  • The key challenge for customer experience is that 92% of all senior leadership teams say they are trying to deliver a differentiated customer experience.Yet, overall customer satisfaction is going down.
  • Human experience requires humans but it also needs to be aided by technology used in a very smart way.
  • If we get into the life of our customer, we walk their journey and we look at how they use our products and services then we are going to see a clear pathway to the future. And, that is likely to be this hybrid experience of online and offline.
  • A key success factor in the future will be about agile design and the capacity to be very quick and responsive to your customers based on your awareness of what the customer wants, needs and desires. That will require not only great design and technology engineers but also an open mind set culture.
  • Check out for more information on the book.
  • For folks in the US they are also running a competition for a trip to San Francisco at the site so do check it out. The contest runs through December 6th.
  • Joseph’s Punk CX word: Unconventional. 
  • Joseph’s brand that epitomises a Punk CX ethos: Zappos

About Joseph

Joseph MichelliJoseph A. Michelli, Ph.D., C.S.P., is an internationally sought-after speaker, author, and organizational consultant who transfers his knowledge of exceptional business practices in ways that develop joyful and productive workplaces with a focus on customer experience. His insights encourage leaders and frontline workers to grow and invest passionately in all aspects of their lives.

Dr. Michelli is a Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, Nielson BookScan, and New York Times #1 bestselling author. His latest book is The Airbnb Way: 5 Leadership Lessons for Igniting Growth through Loyalty, Community, and Belonging. Joseph’s other titles include Driven to Delight: Delivering World-Class Customer Experience the Mercedes-Benz Way, Leading The Starbucks Way: 5 Principles for Connecting with Your Customer, Your Products, and Your People, The Zappos Experience: 5 Principles to Inspire Engage and WOW, Prescription for Excellence: Leadership Lessons for Creating a World-Class Customer Experience from UCLA Health System, The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary, The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, and When Fish Fly: Lessons for Creating a Vital and Energized Workplace which was co-authored with the owner of the “World-Famous” Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle.

Joseph holds the Certified Speaking Professional designation from the National Speakers Association (NSA). He is a member of the Authors Guild, an editorial board member for the Beryl Institute’s Patient Experience Journal (PXJ), and is on the founders’ council of CustomerExperienceOne. Other achievements include winning the Asian Brand Excellence Award and being named as one of the Top 10 thought leaders in Customer Service by Global Gurus. He received his master’s and doctorate from the University of Southern California.

Having journeyed with a close family member through a six-year battle with breast cancer, Dr. Michelli is committed to social causes associated with curing cancer and abating world hunger.

Check out for more information on the book, say Hi to Joseph on Twitter @josephmichelli and connect with him on LinkedIn here.



Thanks to Pixabay for the image.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


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