It’s the (customer) journey that counts

In preparation for a recent Euro trip, I researched countless places to stay, from hotels to hostels to “whatever we can afford.” After days of indecisiveness, a friend of mine recommended Airbnb, a company that allows you to “rent nightly from real people in 19,437 cities and 194 countries.”

Immediately I was impressed. With the easy-to-use website, the simple and personal how it works video and, most notably, the affordable nightly rates and convenient, central locations, I was sold. I registered on the site and was ready to book.

Or so I thought.

In my Google searches for Airbnb customer reviews, I came across several (quite a few, actually) stories of what is now referred to as “Ransackgate”, a disastrous experience of a customer from San Francisco who rented her house, only to have her valuables robbed, the house destroyed and her identity stolen. The customer, or victim as she is referred to by numerous articles, took to blogging. No surprise, this resulted in a PR nightmare and risky reputational implications for the rapidly growing Airbnb, currently valued at over $1 billion.

Naturally, I considered dropping the Airbnb option completely. Although I was the one renting, I questioned the company’s credibility and my perceptions as a consumer had shifted. Just before it was back to the drawing board, I received an email from Brian Chesky, CEO and Co-founder of Airbnb:

I appreciated the timely communication, as well as the company’s decision to take action, proving it didn’t take the Ransackgate matter lightly. I decided to give Airbnb a try. And I’m glad I did.

My personal experience with Airbnb could not have been better. I received constant reminders of my upcoming reservations, was able to communicate with my hosts directly through Airbnb’s online messaging system and found the new 24/7 international hotline convenient. Furthermore, when I called an Airbnb representative seeking help reaching one of my hosts, not only did they call her on my behalf, but issued several email follow-ups asking if she got back to me.

I was pleased with both of the apartments I rented while abroad and very impressed by the ease of booking. Renting from Airbnb was not only a great customer experience, but enhanced my actual journey abroad. The company’s ability to bounce back with straightforward, transparent communications following an extremely unfortunate incident has turned me into a loyal customer. It serves, I believe, as an example of how a positive experience truly impacts consumer perceptions on an organization’s brand.

What are your thoughts on how Airbnb handled Ransackgate? Would you use Airbnb on your next trip?

Tatyana Shmuts is a marketing associate for the Siegel+Gale New York office.

2 comment(s)

  1. Airbnb did three things right here:

    1. They acknowledged failure. Consumers today can sniff out PR jargon a mile away and Airbnb’s humble response to the situation came across as genuine and authentic.

    2. They were transparent about their process to resolving the problem. Consumers recognize that when a brand is transparent, they’re opening themselves up to even more damage should they not deliver on their promise. Transparency helps build trust and without trust you cannot expect a consumer to take action on your behalf.

    3. They took repeated action to deliver on their promise. A blanket statement to the media is one thing, an email from the CEO is quite another. Sure, the email from Chesky was most likely a template but the tone was authentic. In addition, the brand leveraged nearly every touch point to help regain trust with its audience by acknowledging their mistake and clearly communicating what they were doing to make things right.

    The formula is quite simple, really, and it amazes me that so many brands today fail to deliver this type of experience.

  2. Tatyana Shmuts

    I completely agree with you, Mike. Airbnb took the correct course of action. It turned an event that could have been detrimental to the company into an opportunity to communicate with its customers authentically. Something many brands can learn from! Thanks for the comment.

Register now to comment

Related blog posts, white papers and events

August 23rd, 2011

Building a brand halo

I used to love the soft whirring sound of my wheeled suitcase as it rolled down the corridors of an airline terminal. But with all the rules and regulations, long...

Read more     0 comments

Building Concrete Relationships with Homebuyers

Buying a home is arguably the most emotional purchase one can make—and that’s especially for the first-time buyer. These “property virgins” account for almost 35% of homebuyers, who are slowly...

Download white paper     0 comments