In this conversation, I was joined by Aisling Hassell who was the VP of community support for Airbnb at that time. As we know, the hospitality industry has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, so it was interesting to hear how Aisling and her team developed a plan to support the “people, process, and product,” during these challenging times.
When Aisling and I spoke a few months ago, we were still in the early stages of navigating this pandemic, and in this conversation, she shares some insights as to how Airbnb, a global organization, galvanized employees and Airbnb hosts to work together on solutions that would allow the company to continue to operate while keeping people safe.
Aisling has also been a guest on my podcast before, and in our previous conversation, we discussed How Airbnb Scales Culture and Customer Experience. If you’re in the hospitality industry, I suggest you listen to this for further insights on navigating CX within the field. Aisling is currently an advisor to &Cuevas, a venture partner based in Spain.
Everyone Has to Get On Board with New Transitions
In our conversation, Aisling shares that at Airbnb they work with a “people, process, and product” mindset, as these are the key elements to their success. Not only did she have to think through how to help employees navigate the shift to working from home, but she had to ensure that both the Airbnb hosts and guests were being taken care of. Aisling explains that internally, she worked with their “homes platform” team to help ensure that guests and hosts could connect and mutually cancel reservations and that the process would be supported.
Additionally, Aisling explains that as the call volume increased exponentially during Covid, she and her team were able to gather more people to answer calls. People who didn’t typically work the phones were doing so in order to help more customers—that’s a true pivot. She explains that since Airbnb already has a customer roadmap to work with, it was easier for her to assemble her team to get things done. The end-to-end roadmap helped them have a greater understanding of the customer’s journey and the places that would need extra support.
Don’t Over-Complicate Your Pivot
While determining the best ways to communicate with Airbnb hosts, Aisling shares that they took the “old school” route of communicating via host forums. These forums have been a place for hosts and guests to share opinions, feedback, and ask questions. Aisling’s team has been running listening sessions in order to get a better sense of what the host community in the various parts of the world would like to see in terms of help and improvement.
According to Aisling, the forums and listening in on calls provided rich feedback for her team; it helped them stay close to the community. I like that they employed a relatively simple measure to keep the flow of communication going.
What Do You Know Now That You Wish You Knew Then?
“You have to plan for the worst-case scenario. And definitely in my line, that’s kind of my job, we always have to worry about Plan B, and what would we do if right? I think it was such a sharp shock to the world and to our business. I think we really struggled with this. Like, where’s it going? I suppose I wish I knew that when dealing with that level of uncertainty, I would have a plan for an upside and a downside. I think we’re always good at worrying about a bad plan B. Well, I wish I had focused more on the good plan B as well. And, but that’s hard to do when you know, you have an existential threat.”
About Aisling HassellNow an advisor for &Cuevas, venture partner for sustainable operations for startups, Aisling Hassell previously led Airbnb’s global Community Support team. She focused on making every single element of the guest and host experience on Airbnb a memorable one. Aisling joined Airbnb in 2014, after a global career leading customer strategy and experience in technology, communications and software innovators.
In her 25-year career, Aisling has been director of global customer experience and web strategy at Sage, Group Head of Customer Experience, Vodafone and VP of Customer Experience at Symantec in the US.
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