Airbnb’s CEO Wants a Customer Do-Over

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Get ready for Airbnb’s extreme makeover: home rental edition.

In an interview with Bloomberg, CEO Brian Chesky laid out plans to renovate the company that has been rocked by user dissatisfaction, stiff competition, and tight restrictions in the short-term rental market.

This Must (Not) Be the Place

A pesky problem for the company’s customers has been not getting what they paid for. The house is dirty, the water is brown, or even worse — the property doesn’t exist at all, and the potential guest gets the double-whammy of being scammed out of money and needing to book something else instantly.

Chesky said Airbnb grew so rapidly after its 2008 debut that it skipped establishing a proper foundation of customer service, a key element for the company going forward:

  • In some cases, customers have a great stay, but then they’re hit with a hidden fee from the host for something like not putting the recycling in the correct bins. Chesky said that Airbnb will be more transparent with prices while also lowering cleaning fees.
  • Chesky said artificial intelligence is “the first line of defense” against fake listings. Hosts are required to upload exterior and interior pictures of their properties, which are then cross-checked with multiple databases like Google Earth to determine if the property will actually be there and in the proper condition when guests show up.

Up in the Air: Airbnb recently lost ground to Vrbo after the rival debuted One Key, a loyalty program similar to frequent flier miles. Chesky said a system like that could be in Airbnb’s future, but that it’s a “long-horizon thing.” Also on Airbnb’s to-do list: New York City, which used to be 80% of the company’s business but recently tightened requirements for short-term rentals less than 30 days, making hosts register with the city and be physically present throughout a guest’s stay. Chesky said Airbnb will likely shift more toward experiences, connecting customers with events and outings in the Big Apple rather than a place to stay. Hoboken and Jersey City, it’s your time to shine.

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