If you spend much time in the C-suite, you’ve likely heard about the importance of delivering world-class customer experiences.

Customer experience improvement is not only a buzzword in business today, but a strategic imperative for companies seeking to differentiate their brands through impactful experiences. In order to achieve customer experience excellence, training professionals are challenged to:

  • Help team members understand the optimal brand experience.
  • Provide tools to drive service excellence.
  • Ensure team members are capable of innovating continual customer experience improvements.

While these challenges may seem daunting, many companies are effectively training and aligning their stakeholders to create exceptional customer experiences.

The Idea

Airbnb is a prime example of an organization leveraging effective customer experience training for improved business results. The company was founded in 2008, when a roommate moved out of Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia’s apartment, and they were looking for a way to make rent. Knowing that a major design conference was coming to San Francisco, the pair created a rudimentary website targeted to conference attendees, offering them the opportunity to sleep on one of three air mattresses and enjoy uncooked pop tarts and orange juice.

From their humble beginnings, Chesky and Gebbia partnered with a friend, Nathan Blecharcyzk, to streamline their web platform. Just over a decade later, estimates of Airbnb’s valuation range from $31 billion to $38 billion, and its website features more than seven million listings across more than 100,000 cities in over 191 countries.

At Airbnb, effective guest experience training is challenging due to the number and diversity of team members and hosts in need of training. Airbnb leaders rely on traditional tools, such as classroom training, learning management systems (LMSs) and mentoring to enhance alignment and learning initiatives for the company’s approximately 14,000 employees across the globe.

Where Anyone Can Belong Anywhere

The goal of Airbnb’s customer experience training is to help employees develop their ability to design and deliver an optimal Airbnb experience, which the company defines as creating “a world where anyone can belong anywhere.” To that end, Airbnb teaches its employees experience design skills to continually improve its web platform and support the business development needs of Airbnb hosts. Ultimately, Airbnb hosts are responsible for creating experiences where all guests feel like they belong.

After the company scaled, Airbnb altered its approach to teaching hosts how to foster hospitality and belonging. Chip Conley, Airbnb’s first head of hospitality, notes, “In the early days, I did a series of road trips across the world to 26 different markets where I would literally run two-hour workshops. That travel allowed a few hundred hosts in each market to immerse themselves deeper in hospitality skills.”

Later, Airbnb began delivering hosts just-in-time training based on guests’ ratings and reviews. Conley explains, “We realized we had to help hosts understand what they were missing when it came to hospitality. Often, hosts would have high ratings on most, but not all, important areas of service excellence, so we would send those hosts emails with relevant and helpful information based on opportunities in areas like responsiveness.”

Regional Training

Today, Airbnb relies on its regional team members to meet hosts’ needs when it comes to delivering hospitality and running their business. Leaders at Airbnb have also organized training and community networking platforms, such as Airbnb Community Center and Airbnb Host Clubs.

Laura Chambers, general manager of home hosts, shares, “We’re deeply engaged in the Airbnb Community Center, and we want to be as helpful as possible for the leaders of other online groups. We want to ensure that all online host communities are empowered, connected, and have lots of tools and insights to do wonderful work.” She adds, “We have over a hundred people on our mobilization team that sit in a region and work with regional leads and communities on the ground. This team helps build community through Airbnb Host Clubs. We have 300 Airbnb Host Clubs, which are different based on their local passions and interests. Generally, these groups get involved … to share information like how to get more five-star reviews …. In essence, our Airbnb community organizers partner with local hosts to equip them with online tools and in-person trainings needed to successfully lead and drive outcomes for their local host club.”

Customer experience training is a journey, not a destination. By implementing the tips in this article, you can follow in Airbnb’s footsteps and help your employees deliver a differentiated customer experience.

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