Everyone is in the Hospitality Business | Customer Experience Excellence – The Airbnb Way

This is the third in a 5-part series. This week we continue to journey through key concepts found in my 10 leadership books. Let’s rejoin our brisk review of my book titled The Airbnb Way – 5 Leadership Lessons for Igniting Growth through Loyalty, Community, and Belonging.

Last week we touched on trust. This week we will highlight hospitality and in the weeks ahead we will explore empowerment and community. In The Airbnb Way, I write the following concerning hospitality:

Words like hospitality and host are typically applied to a narrow range of endeavors. In fact, the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines hospitality as “the activity or business of providing services to guests in hotels, restaurants, and bars” and defines a host as “one that receives or entertains guests, socially, commercially, or officially.” At Airbnb, however, hosting represents a longstanding practice of forging emotional connections that go well beyond what is traditionally thought of as the hospitality industry. During a speech titled “Hosts are Heroes,” Airbnb’s CEO and co-founder, Brian Chesky, reflected on the historic elements of hosting this way: “One of our core values at Airbnb, and it may very well be the most important core value, is to ‘be a host’…. Hosting’s been around as long as there have been people. It happened thousands of years ago around a warm fire with some strangers and some friendly faces.” Chesky suggests that hosting is not only officially relevant but of increasing importance in modern business. “There’s a lot of talk about technology companies disrupting the way people work and the way people live, but…technology is never going to disrupt hosting. Author Tom Friedman…says there are three types of jobs: jobs through the hand, jobs at the head, and jobs with the heart…Technology first typically disrupts jobs of the hand…then eventually jobs at the head, but technology can never disrupt jobs of the heart, and hospitality is service with heart.”

Compared to most companies, Airbnb faces a unique set of challenges when it comes to influencing service with heart. Specifically, Airbnb leaders only control the service experiences that occur on their web platform. Yet Airbnb team members must also influence the actions of millions of independent business owners who deliver guest experiences that link back to Airbnb. To ensure that guests who book on the Airbnb platform receive consistent and emotionally engaging service, Airbnb provides training opportunities and resources directly to hosts to support success within the guest/host ecosystem. For hosts to be successful, Airbnb leaders help individuals with a wide range of customer service talents learn how to turn homes and experiences into bookings. For guest success, Airbnb drives referrals and repeat bookings on the Airbnb platform.

While I go into detail in The Airbnb Way on the training and resources provided to drive hospitality, that’s beyond the scope of this post. As such, I’ll simply offer some challenge questions to prompt consideration of the relevance of hospitality in your business.

  • In what ways do you “host” customers?
  • Do you accept Brian Chesky’s perspective that technology will not disrupt hosting?  If so, why? If not, why not?
  • Using the definition – hospitality is service with heart – how heartfelt is the experience you are providing your customers?

I hope you’ll consider purchasing The Airbnb Way or if you already own the book, I would appreciate you writing a review of it on Amazon. You can also schedule a time to talk about training for hospitality in your business. Until next week, may you elevate your customer experience The Airbnb Way!

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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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