My Rock, My Story: How Airbnb Uses Customer Listening to Determine Goals

MY ROCK, MY STORY HOW AIRBNB USES CUSTOMER LISTENING TO DETERMINE GOALS

The following post is an excerpt from my book: Chief Customer Officer 2.0. Below, I share a “My Rock, My Story” snippet – which is one of many featured throughout the book. These stories come from CCOs who have faced numerous challenges, yet persevered in pushing their metaphorical “rock up the hill” by uniting their leadership teams, working through challenges, and ultimately achieving success in doing so.

In this “My Rock, My Story,” Aisling Hassell, Head of International Customer Experience at Airbnb, shares how her team works together in the customer listening process to establish a baseline before setting targets for metrics goals. As many C-suite leaders know—often times—when data comes in from surveys, it’s analyzed by survey question and within silos. Each team is measuring responses to meet their specific targets rather than uniting for one shared company goal.

With a company like Airbnb, which has 2 sets of customer bases to appeal to, customer listening becomes more complex. It’s critical to take the time to thoroughly ensure you’re listening to both the service providers and the customers who rely on these hosts so you can develop a map to suit both needs.


Aisling Hassell is responsible for global customer experience at Airbnb, which is a community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world in more than 34,000 cities and 190 countries.

Build Customer Listening to Align to the Various Stages of the Customer Journey

Aisling: We have built out both the guest and host journeys and are driving how we build customer listening aligned to the stages of those journeys. At Airbnb we call the stages “frames” as our founder was intrigued by the discipline of Disney and the notion of framing each experience. As we have build out our Net Promoter copyright system, for example, we have prioritized our listening posts according to key frames in the host and guest experience. Our goal is to map key themes from customer feedback and drive continuous improvement frame by frame.

During the early stages of building our listening system, surveys and the analytics behind them were done differently throughout the organization. The great thing is that we have always been keen to hear from our customers. The downside was that, for all the feedback coming in, there was no aggregation point, making it difficult to identify priorities. In addition, we lacked qualitative insight to advance our understanding of the meaning behind the scores. Where there were comments, it was an intensely manual process to decipher key themes, with what we call “air dives” done by individuals within the customer voice team. So overall, we had a lot of feedback but challenges in gaining insights from it.

Unite Your Teams to Achieve a Company-Wide Metrics Goal

We now have united our approach company-wide. However, a challenge we continue to grapple with is setting targets for performance. There is nervousness about picking a specific Net Promoter Score (NPS) number, which makes sense as we have yet to establish a benchmark. The goal this year is to establish our NPS baseline performance and make sure that everyone is on the same page before we go crazy with target setting. We need to build out the discipline for that process first. At the end of the day, we make advances by putting the feedback into categories, aligning it to the journey or frames as we call them, and driving change.

At the end of the day, we make advances by putting the feedback into categories, aligning it to the journey or frames as we call them, and driving change. - Aisling Hassell of @Airbnb Click To Tweet

The first step to implementing a new internal system is to get everyone comfortable with the new data, processes, and tools. The second step is to get people focused on driving change based on the insights. By focusing in this way, we know we will continue to make Airbnb a compelling experience for our hosts, guests, and employees.

The first step to implementing a new internal system is to get everyone comfortable with the new data, processes, and tools. The second step is to get people focused on driving change based on the insights. - Aisling Hassell of @Airbnb Click To Tweet

After reading Aisling’s story, think about how your company listens to customers and unites feedback in order to better convey the story of customers’ lives. As I’ve previously mentioned in my 5 Core Competency framework, the 3rd competency, ‘Build a Customer Listening Path,’ is to be aligned in how you’ll use and measure the feedback.

Here are some action points to get you started:

  • Collect feedback from multiple sources internally and analyze results. If feedback points back to the same issues or opportunities, we see a halt to company debate. There’s power in convergence.
  • Build a one-company categorization of issues, so that when collected across the company, they roll-up to volumes that command attention.
  • Present information from multiple sources by stage of the experience – which is what Aisling and her team decided. This is a game-changer, as issues and opportunities will always be in reference to customers when they’re presented this way.

Now, if you don’t have a customer journey yet, you’ve got some catching up to do! Once you map your customer journey, you’ll see how useful it is to understanding your customers, their pain points, their needs, and how you can improve the process to achieve growth.

I’d love to hear from you. How have you implemented customer listening? How do you unite your team?

From the Amazon #1 New Release in Customer Relations

Chief Customer Officer 2.0

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