The AirBnB platform connects 7 million listings in 91 countries; with an incredible 2 million customers staying at an AirBnB every night.
For ordinary product owners, providing exceptional experience when you have such huge variability in your product would be mission impossible...but not for Liz Walker, Product Lead at AirBnB. Liz calls that scale and variability “an interesting problem to solve…”.
In this video, she described WHAT her team is doing as “Creating the world’s most loyal travel community…” The HOW is even more simple: “Through exceptional support.”
Here are her top takeaways around using tech to create a ‘fairytale’ customer experience...
Frontline insights should drive how we build our technology...
For the Product and Engineering teams at AirBnB, their customers are AirBnB’s frontline team; and for the frontline team, their customers are the platform’s users - the guests and hosts who trust AirBnB with their property assets and holiday aspirations.
Liz is a pro at using that chain of customer ownership to create exceptional tech support. Her product team sits in the same office as the frontline team because “...the closer you sit to your end-users, the better your product!”
The product team’s philosophy is to ship early and often. “No-one knows more about our platform’s users than our frontline team!” This team gets early access to product improvements or features, and we ask them, on an on-going basis, “What’s working?”; “What’s not working?” and “What have we missed?”
Writing a story for your whole audience
To shape what customers think and feel when they use AirBnB, Liz points to a technique invented by Walt Disney to create the famed Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Called storyboarding, the technique involves creating a comic-book-like outline of a story so that a film’s collaborators all understand the shape and vision of a film’s narrative.
At AirBnB, the team’s legendary ‘Snow White frames’ capture the essence of pivotal moments in an AirBnB’s customer’s journey, empathising with both the host and the guest and their ideal outcomes in an end-to-end experience. The frames provide a clever design guide for the company’s mix of online and offline activity. “These frames hang on the wall, acting as a constant reminder to place the customer at the heart of our design decisions.”
Technology allows you to improve people’s lives at scale...but start small
Prior to her current role, Liz’s experience at LinkedIn under co-founder Reed Hoffman taught her an important approach to customer-centric design - that of starting start small. “Take one user - and make them love your product. Don’t even think about whether what you’re doing would scale. After you’ve nailed that, scale comes next - but always after you’ve focused on the customer first.”
For Liz’s team, ‘happily ever after’ means a community where “Anyone can belong anywhere…”, and it all starts with “Putting people at the centre of product design…”