It’s the (customer) journey that counts
by Siegel Gale
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.