Airbnb's whirlwind rise to success isn't luck. They're smart guys and have unique ways to think about improving the guest experience.

One such way is to imagine what a 10-star guest check-in would look like. Imagining these experiences helps Airbnb to think about creating better experiences than the competition.

A lot of this article has been extracted from a recent podcast I listened to featuring Brian Chesky and Reid Hoffman. The reference to text can be found here: Scaling Airbnb with Brian Chesky

The paradigm with customers today is 5 stars. The problem with 5 stars is you have to be really bad to get 4 stars. Reaching 5 stars is just being nice enough — we wanted to build a product that you loved so much you would tell everyone. Travel has the potential to transform your whole life — I have met people on my own travels who changed my life.

At Airbnb, we strive to have our customers contact the company and demand a 6th star be added to our 5 star review because the experience was so good.

Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb

How's how Airbnb think about a 5 to 10-star experience:

What would a 10-star check-in experience look like?

5 star experience

You leave the airport, go to the Airbnb, your hosts are in the house, they let you in. This is 5 star. Worse than this is if your host is late (4 star) and the worst is if your host never showed up (1 star).

6 star experience

All of the above + your host picks you up at the airport.

7 star experience

All of the above + there is a limo waiting for you at the airport and inside the limo are your favorite chips and coconut water.

8 star experience

There is a giant parade when you arrive at the airport and you are honored for coming.

9 star experience

 The moment you step off the plane there is 5,000 screaming fans holding signs for your arrive — we call this the Beatles check-in.

10 star experience

 I could go all the way up to 30 stars — I won’t, but 10 stars would be when you arrive and a Tesla with your name on it is waiting for you and in the car, the driver is Elon Musk, and instead of your Airbnb Elon, takes you to outer space.

Why should you be thinking about this?

Obviously, Brian has exaggerated this to make a point but the principle is a  5-star is what people expect.

For people to love you, you need to do more than what they expect. Hence why Airbnb plays out these scenarios all of the time — once you go up to 10 stars, 6 stars doesn’t seem so crazy anymore.

This exercise can apply to anything you do in the company.

Airbnb even story-boarded their whole interviewing experience by thinking through how to make that a 7-star guest experience.

You can be better

Airbnb only has so much control in the guest experience - because they're just the point of sale. It's up to us, the managers & owners of properties to create a truly magical experience - or what Skift are now calling a "transformative experience".

It's how you can set yourself apart and create a memorable brand people keep wanting to come back to..


last year


Good point to your post Danny.

What Brian and Airbnb don't say to guests - and never have - is that the OTA's rely upon the hosts/management companies to provide the "transformative experience" for the guest. The fact is that rental portals/OTA's simply can't operate without local hosts/managers to add value to each reservation.

All that the rental portals offer is a single source marketplace to choose a location/accommodation based on price and amenities. They then charge the guest and the owner/manager with a fee to provide that market.

It is the local host and/or the local manager that provides 24x7 help to the guests, checks them in, checks them out (if necessary), provides the local expertise and guidance to the guest, provides staff to resolve issues and problems, provides the cleaning, inspections, maintenance, pool service and a host of other things that the rental portals simply can't provide.

Guests are unwittingly suffering from a disservice by the OTA's, by being charged more for a rental (and the additional "guest processing fees") than they would receive by booking directly or locally, but there isn't the same level of understanding or publicity to bring those options to the guests attention.

Hosts and managers should work toward independence from the rental-portals and OTA's. One of the clearest messages I've seen lately is when a local property manager places a pop-up on their site offering lower prices than Airbnb or Homeaway. It's really simple - even if you advertise your property/properties at the same price on your website as it's being advertised for on the portals, the OTA portal is ALWAYS going to be more expensive when they add their "slice" to your rates.

It used to be that the OTA's like, airbnb, homeaway, expedia, and others used to demand price parity between your adverts and the rates shown on their sites. That's still the case probably, but you can be sure that after they've added their process/guest fees, you'll be able to offer your property/properties at a lower price. It's a hard, long road to gain your independence from the OTA's, but it's well worth it in the end.

last year

I totally agree with

OTA's rely upon the hosts/management companies to provide the "transformative experience"

These popups are great at educating guests but the main issue is getting people to see these websites & popups. Guests also trust OTA's - they're recognisable brands.

last year

For sure the marketplaces are actually at the mercy of the supply chain. Hotels are generally full time, professionally curated, trained, affiliated businesses and focus on service as much as accommodation. They also tend to be in the same place.

Rentals are either small owner businesses or managed inventory on behalf of owners or leased properties, which is a mid way point. Owners cannot all be corralled into the same work camp. Its like herding cats and its not a bad thing as there is a great variety as a result. If they all looked the same it would be a Premier Inn.

The issues with all of this is the guest. They are human, don't live in the world of rentals, hotel distribution and increasingly want corporate trust, big easy selective sites, fast transactions, immediate responses, phone app check-ins etc.

Blending rentals into this framework has been tough for them and continues to be so. But guest impetus is powerful and as long as there is oversupply their rules may see more adoption by those who will bend and accommodate. Those who follow all the rules, get best reviews, keenest prices, no damage deposits, easy cancellation, instant book will float to the top of the big sites, leaving a large number of despondent inventory. Which in itself is a potential game changer.

Much of this also depends on available margin and ease of data exchange, still in its infancy in rentals.

I'm pretty sure the next few years will see a raft of AI and verbal searches, which added to improved manager and owner processes and tech at the inventory end, may well see a flux happening. Collaborations are happening and new tech for collation is also appearing.

In the meantime and there are so many that struggle with this and we all understand the issues, they still form an increasing part of the marketing mix and guests pay more, knowingly or unknowingly and consider they are booking with the large business.

Smart use of all the opportunities makes for good business, its just much harder than it ever was!

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