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This article was published on September 17, 2013

With 8.5m guests, Airbnb seeks to build a more uniform customer experience via its Hospitality Lab

With 8.5m guests, Airbnb seeks to build a more uniform customer experience via its Hospitality Lab
Ken Yeung
Story by

Ken Yeung

Ken Yeung is a reporter for The Next Web based in San Francisco, CA. He carries around a big camera & likes to write about tech, startup Ken Yeung is a reporter for The Next Web based in San Francisco, CA. He carries around a big camera & likes to write about tech, startups, parties, and interesting people. Follow him on Twitter, on Facebook, and Google+.

Airbnb has a dream to bring hotel-type customer service to more affordable temporary housing. And its gamble appears to be paying off as it revealed today that 8.5 million guests have used the service to date, an increase of 112 percent from the beginning of 2013. The company has also seen its global network continue to grow to more than 500,000 listings.

In order to maximize the user experience and ensure that everyone has a great time during their stay at an Airbnb property, the company has brought on board the Chip Conley, the founder of the Joie de Vivre hotels (the second largest group of boutique properties in the US), whose mission is to help “educate and empower” the host community — it’s more than just simply listing your property, now the company wants to ensure that a level of care is met throughout its network.

Conley’s responsibility will be to launch the company’s Hospitality Lab and host training program.

What you might not know about Airbnb

But before we dive into Airbnb’s mission, here are some pretty interesting stats that it revealed to us:

  • This summer, someone was checking into an Airbnb listing every two seconds.
  • 175,000 people stayed at an Airbnb during the peak night this summer.
  • Airbnb’s photographers have captured more images of properties than the entire Library of Congress.
  • 50 percent of Airbnb’s trips have guests and hosts that speak different languages.
  • 65,000 people have paid for all of their trips using Airbnb host earnings.

Improving customer service

Airbnb’s long road towards bolstering its user experience stems from an issue back in 2011 where a woman’s apartment was essentially destroyed by tenants that had rented the place through the service. Since then, all indications point to the company wanting to remedy the situation, including securing a $1 million Host Guarantee insurance policy and implementing better accountability with Verified Identification.

And while offering the necessary protection and insurance is great, Airbnb needs to find ways to make renting a property more inviting and ensure repeat business, not just for that specific listing, but also for the service. With that, it has shifted more towards being a concierge, of sorts, with its Neighborhoods program that helps prospective customers figure out what to rent based on where in the city it is. As company co-founder Brian Chesky told us previously:

Neighborhoods are the original communities. They are the keys to unlocking local culture and one-of-a-kind experiences. By going deeper and tapping into local knowledge, we are introducing our community to a neighborhood’s personality so they can match it with their own.

Not every host is the same and there are those that are exceptionally better than the others. But Airbnb doesn’t appear to want this type of disparity — it wants to ensure that everyone has the same level of care as the other property down the street. Just like how hotel staff maintain a sense of dignity and professionalism when responding to every customer’s request, Airbnb wants to do the same.

And Conley has been tasked with this mission. He will be setting up the company’s Hospitality Lab that will help train hosts on nine key standards for hospitality, including improving response times, having accurate listings, and ensuring cleanliness of the property. It’s all about ensuring a more consistent experience across Airbnb’s entire global network.

It’s not really clear what the metrics of success are, but through these offline workshops and virtual webinars, Airbnb believes it can help shape up the host community to make sure that every customer is shown the respect they deserve.


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