Airbnb: Outsourcing not only houses but the customer experience

4 min readFeb 9, 2016

Re-design needed.

My original experience with Airbnb was pretty good the first time I used it in 2013. I never saw the host (although we are good friends now) however it leaves a lot of doubts as to how far the model works. The last few encounters I have had have left me with a poor opinion of Airbnb.

In terms of what Airbnb is expected to provide from a customer standpoint is definitely a secure, clean, convenient location at an affordable price. These are standard metrics when browsing accommodation sites and I think it fulfills 90% of the experience. The 10% is when things go wrong i.e cancellation of booking by the host or patron and reaching out to an actual human being to resolve the resolution.

Get me a human!

In the quest to drive down costs, companies have adopted poorly designed technology to handle customer service. This has led to interesting solutions such as or

In the case of Airbnb they have chosen a rather interesting approach of using actual humans but still keep costs down to zero. i.e Outsource the supply of accommodation and customer service all to the hosts:

A search on Google actually yields an interesting result:

There is absolutely no email address to contact Airbnb directly (normally if you do a ‘find’ there is a contact us section at the bottom but this seems sadly missing:

Why the gripes?

My recent trip to Sapporo left me stranded at the very last moment while transiting from Haneda Airport to Sapporo. I received the email jut a few hours prior to landing in Sapporo:

In his defense I think he had a situation worse than mine to have his house burgled. The host was actually very nice and was happy to put us up for a night at a different place, but only for the first night so we had to find alternate accommodation.

So of course, in this situation I would really expect Airbnb to provide a decent alternative. Their reply was really less than satisfactory (and yes this was after calling them):

Granted there are instant bookings on Airbnb, but sadly not for Sapporo. To try to contact a host while moving from city to city with luggage feels more like a business trip as compared to a holiday.

For the model to truly work, Airbnb does need to fix the ability for customers to not be stranded in a foreign land and not really know the foreign language. For all my inconvenience, they offered USD200 (Coupon). I went with the safe option of booking a hotel. That roughly cost me USD500 more than my expected budget (based on the same location).


Interestingly enough, Airbnb responds very quickly to tweets @AirbnbHelp. Although in terms of the satisfaction of the resolution, I think it would still be a long way before I recommend them to friends and family again.

Trust is something that Airbnb is striving to build. Apart from having verification and reviews, I believe that Airbnb really needs to create a much better experience for the 10% moments that might occur.




If you are enjoy a laugh at the expense of our corporate overlords, I hope my sense of humour is the cause