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Airbnb is one of the most successful and disruptive companies in the travel industry. It has revolutionized the way people find and book accommodation around the world, offering millions of unique and affordable options for travelers and hosts alike.
But Airbnb is not perfect. In fact, its CEO Brian Chesky admits that the company is fundamentally broken4 and needs to fix its foundation before it can innovate and grow further.
What are the problems that Airbnb faces? And how does Chesky plan to solve them?
The challenges of Airbnb
Airbnb has faced many challenges since its inception in 2008. Some of them are external, such as regulatory hurdles, legal battles, and competition from other platforms. Some of them are internal, such as inconsistent service quality, declining profit margins, and customer dissatisfaction.
Some of the most pressing issues that Airbnb needs to address are:
- Fake listings: Airbnb has been plagued by fake or fraudulent listings that mislead or scam customers. These listings can range from inaccurate descriptions, photos, or amenities to outright scams that cancel bookings at the last minute or demand extra fees. According to Airbnb, it has removed 59,000 fake listings this year5, but many more may still exist.
- High fees: Airbnb charges both guests and hosts fees for using its platform. These fees can vary depending on the location, duration, and type of booking. However, many customers complain that these fees are too high and not transparent enough. For example, cleaning fees can vary widely between hosts and are often added at the end of the booking process, making the total price higher than expected.
- Poor customer service: Airbnb has a reputation for having poor customer service, especially when it comes to resolving disputes or complaints. Many customers report long wait times, unresponsive agents, or unsatisfactory outcomes when they contact Airbnb for help. Some customers also feel that Airbnb favors hosts over guests in certain situations, such as cancellations or refunds.
- Low quality standards: Airbnb does not have a consistent or reliable way of ensuring the quality of its listings. Unlike hotels or other accommodation providers, Airbnb does not inspect or verify its properties before they are listed on its platform. This means that customers may encounter dirty, unsafe, or uncomfortable places that do not match their expectations or preferences.
The solutions of Airbnb
Airbnb is aware of these problems and is working hard to fix them. In a recent interview with Bloomberg4, Chesky revealed some of his plans to improve Airbnb’s core service and make it more affordable, reliable, and satisfying for both guests and hosts.
Some of the solutions that Airbnb is implementing or planning to implement are:
- Listing verification: Airbnb is using artificial intelligence (AI) to help it verify listings in its top five countries: US, UK, France, Italy, and Spain5. It will have hosts go inside the property and open the Airbnb app. GPS will verify they are at the correct address, and AI will be used to compare live photos with pictures that the host uses on the listing. This will help weed out fake or inaccurate listings and ensure that customers get what they see.
- Price transparency: Airbnb is showing customers total prices per listing – including transparent and lower cleaning fees – while giving hosts insights that ensure competitive nightly rates4. This will help customers compare prices more easily and avoid hidden fees or surprises. It will also help hosts optimize their pricing strategy and increase their occupancy rate.
- Customer service improvement: Airbnb is improving its customer service by reducing calls to customer service by identifying and removing fake listings4, increasing its staff capacity6, and offering more self-service options6. It is also developing a loyalty program7 that will reward frequent customers with perks and benefits, such as priority support, discounts, and upgrades.
- Quality assurance: Airbnb is creating a new listing verification system that will use a combination of AI, human review, and customer feedback to ensure the quality of its listings4. It will also introduce new search filters for king-size beds and pet-friendly homes4, as well as new categories for unique and luxury properties6. These features will help customers find and book the best places for their needs and preferences.
The future of Airbnb
Airbnb is not giving up on its vision of creating a world where anyone can belong anywhere. It is still committed to expanding its offerings and exploring new opportunities in the travel industry.
But before it can do that, it needs to fix its foundation and make sure that its core service is great, affordable, and reliable. That’s what Chesky is focusing on right now.
He says: “We need to get our house in order. We need to make sure the listings are great, we’re providing great customer service and we’re affordable. And I’ve told our team that we can get back to creating new and exciting things once we’ve fixed that foundation.”4
Airbnb is broken, but it can be fixed. And Chesky has a plan to do it.