I got a valuable lesson on the difference between User Experience and Customer Experience.

It is great to be an Airbnb user, but it might sucks if you are a customer. From my experience, Airbnb tends to not facilitate anything for your convenience. Actually, in case of a problem, they seem to protect the host and the company itself. It is quite reasonable when you think about it for a second. But when you are in difficulties with your booked Airbnb, it is quite challenging to stay calm. This is because you are spending your vacations time in fixing an issue which is easily fixable.

But let’s put everything in context. I have been travelling for three months in Asia. I started my trip by using mainly Airbnb for my reservations. Why? Because I am a designer and I love the platform. I love its design, the way elements behave, the funnel, the search function, the font. I f***ng love every single pixel of the tool. I have used it so many times in meetings as an example of well-done things.

Now, I have a reason to use it as badly done things as well. As a customer who was booking room after room during the first month of my trip, I had to admit that the Airbnb hosts were fooling me and Airbnb was doing nothing to avoid it.

How can it happen?

Easy, I will explain to you. A host has more than a room. He/she has beautiful rooms with internet connection, balcony, hot water, fantastic views, hair dryer, comfy bed, chair and table to work, etc. But he/she has others which are not as beautiful as the rest. These rooms do not have the services described above and, naturally, these rooms are cheaper. Like any other hotel or hostel, these rooms get a number or a name to differentiate each other. Cristal clear so far.

Airbnb does not allow them to offer more than a room per publication. So, what they do is the following: they create a few publications with different names depending on the room provided. They fill these publications with the picture of the NICEST rooms. Same happens when they describe the provided services. The only different aspect is the price. The most beautiful and better-equipped rooms are the expensive ones. But you do not know that.

It happened to me several times that I booked a room, and when I get there, it was entirely another thing. No internet, no hot water, no place where to work… I complained, but the host pointed out that I paid for that room because of the room’s name dictated in the publication (!!!). If I wanted a better place, I had to pay extra.

How bad is that?

I booked and paid on Airbnb for a room I was not going to get! That is an awful customer experience.

You will think that Airbnb has a customer support service, I can let them know, and I can use it to get my money back. Sure, but it does not fix the problem.

Why does not it fix the problem?

It is mostly because the chat of the customer support works reeeeally slow. It took me almost two days to get an answer from them. They excused themselves by saying that I could have called them. How can they expect me to call them being in Asia??

By when I got an answer from Airbnb, I had already booked a room with Booking, and I got happily upgraded to a better place without extra cost or something.

The cancellation policies are the negative aspect of all this process. These policies protect hosts and make guests weak. The issue lays on having to pay in advance. Once you decide to book a room, Airbnb gets your money and blocks it. This money will be transferred to the host after your first night in the room.

If you are in your room and you check that is not as promised, you can not cancel your reservation and get your money back immediately. This money will go to the host anyways. The hosts know it. You might be lucky for having a phone signal and the possibility of calling Airbnb and complaining about it. Maybe you get part of your money back. Perhaps you don’t, and you just lose your money as it happened to me a couple of times during my trip.

My Solution

A follow-up process.

Airbnb knows that I live in Germany, and they know that I am going to another country (and continent). It would be nice a list of tips from Airbnb. For instance: make sure you have always network to dial us in case of a problem with the room or put some money in an app like Skype for that. Keep in mind that the chat is always there, but it will take us a bit more time to respond. And, as always, remember that we are here to help you.

Once my reservation is running or about to start, a feature where I can check that all the services promised are available, and the room looks as promised: I have internet, I check the item on my list; I have the views they promised, I verify that the place looks as shown; etc. This checklist could also be visible for the host. And in case some of the services are unchecked, you could either stay and get part of your money; leave the room and get all your money back; or talk to the host and Airbnb to find another solution. That would be awesome actually.