The Benefits of Examination | How Would You Answer these Customer Experience Questions

I am on a media tour in the pre-launch phase of my new book The Airbnb Way (you can get a special pre-order offer on that book by using the code THANKS here). During this process, I’ve collected some of my favorite questions being asked by bloggers, podcasters, and journalists. I’ll share a couple of those queries here since they relate to customer experience enhancement.

Recently, I was asked, “What single piece of advice would you give to leaders based on the business practices of Airbnb?”

I often struggle to identify that one thing amid a sea of great lessons shared by a brand: however, in this case, it was an easy answer. Resoundingly, Airbnb leaders emphasize the importance of creating belonging for customers. In fact, belonging IS the mission of the brand. Airbnb’s CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky puts it best:

What started as a way for a few friends to pay the rent has now transformed into something bigger and more meaningful than we ever imagined. And what we realized is that the Airbnb community has outgrown the original Airbnb brand. So Joe, Nate, and I did some soul-searching over the last year. We asked ourselves, “What is our mission?

What is the big idea that truly defines Airbnb?” It turns out the answer was right in front of us. For so long, people thought Airbnb was about renting houses. But really, we’re about home. You see, a house is just a space, but a home is where you belong. And what makes this global community so special is that for the very first time, you can belong anywhere. That is the idea at the core of our company: belonging.

All too often, customers arrive at a business and never feel they belong. Rather, those customers feel like a necessary evil, a commodity, or just another customer.

Creating belonging should be a mantra for more leaders of service-based organizations.

I was also intrigued by the straight-forward nature of this question, “Why is delivering a customer experience so difficult?”

As a reader of this blog, I’d love to get your thoughts on that question. Leave a comment below.

From my perspective, this question requires a multi-factorial answer with factors including the effects of:

  • Increasing customer expectations
  • Insufficient leadership attention to the importance of driving human experience cultures
  • Entrenched organizational silos
  • An inability to effectively leverage the voice-of-the-customer
  • Failure to see experience delivery in the context of the entire human delivery ecosystem

Since I can’t address all of those factors in a single post, I will start with one – increasing customer expectations.

In The Airbnb Way, I describe this issue by coining the term The Customer Experience Challenge. In the book, I note:

To successfully address that challenge, service providers need to deliver the following:

• What customers want

• When they want it

• Where they want it

• As effortlessly

• Immediately

• Consistently

• Personally

• And as memorably as possible

In speeches, I often suggest that from the standpoint of service providers, the expectations of customers are wholly unreasonable. I am quick to note, however, that when we are on the customer side of the relationship, those same expectations are wholly reasonable.

In reality, the reasonableness or unreasonableness of customer expectations matters not! Those expectations are what we have to benchmark against when we seek to deliver outstanding experiences.

If anything, customer expectations are growing and the challenge we’ll face tomorrow is greater than the one we had today. In part, we can thank innovative leaders at brands like Amazon and Airbnb for escalating customer expectations. Then again, we also have them to thank for making our lives as customers easier. Rather than bemoaning the expansion of customer expectations, great leaders seek to meet, exceed, and even create new expectations through thoughtful experience design.

I’d love to hear your answers to the two questions I shared above. In addition to talking about your answers, let’s also discuss the ways you are addressing the questions through your business. I look forward to you reaching out to me here.

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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