I’ve been on a run of business trips lately and Airbnb has become my lodging of choice — less expensive, more personal and located in many up-and-coming neighborhoods you might otherwise never know about.
I’ve been lucky to have positive experiences and part of that is the authenticity of the photos in listings and specific communication between the host and the guest before, during and after the visit.
At the recent Skift Global Travel Forum in New York, Chip Conley, Airbnb head of global hospitality and strategy, defined hospitality using restaurateur Danny Meyer’s description of “generosity of spirit that comes from the heart. It’s an open-heart approach to the service as you welcome people into your homes.”
The $30 billion Airbnb platform, he said, has a goal of providing dependability. Specificity and accuracy in its listings are one way to do that.
The platform also gives numerous ways for guests to rate their experience — giving tags of descriptions others have used and an extensive feedback system providing direct feedback to Airbnb, private feedback to the host, and public feedback for any prospective booker to see.
Guests are also rated so hosts can determine if this is someone they’d like to open their homes to.
The private feedback makes both the guest feel empowered and allows the host to glean customer intelligence. For instance, I recommended the addition of a power strip in one room where I stayed so that multiple electronic devices could be charged simultaneously. The room had one visible electrical outlet and it was behind a piece of furniture.
The host responded within an hour thanking me for the suggestion and saying he plans to implement it.
Airbnb has run into conflict with local governments — including the City of New York — because some owners turn their residential listings into de facto hotels by renting the entire unit for stays of less than 30 days. Across the Hudson in Jersey City, officials sanction rentals and are generating revenue by collecting a 6% hotel tax.
The City of Newark has also legalized Airbnb, with homeowners in some of the swankier neighborhoods such as Forest Hill commanding $1,100 per month for a room.
My recent flurry of activity has not gone unnoticed by the customer experience team. I had to cancel one recent listing that had a strict cancellation refund policy of nothing up to seven days before the reservation’s scheduled date.
But an Airbnb customer experience “case manager,” David J, emailed to advise me Airbnb was willing to supply a coupon for the full value of the room rental — valid at any Airbnb for up to a year.
The stated company goal is 1 million instant bookings by January, in part to counter charges the site was inherently racist for allowing hosts to screen guests up to 24 hours before deciding to rent to them.
Guests who are unable to book for discriminatory reasons through the new Open Doors policy will find a room and receive 24/7 customer service support.