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CX excellence in action: Interview with Airbnb’s Desirree Madison-Biggs – E03

By October 2, 2017 December 20th, 2019 No Comments
Airbnb customer experience is truly something different. The brand is one of my favorite examples of customer-centric disruption. They’ve gotten it right, and the proof is in the pudding. Airbnb has doubled in size every year since 2014, and taken the travel industry by storm – all without owning a single property.

Touring Airbnb’s San Francisco HQ with my host, DesirreeWhat is their secret to success? In August 2017, I had the opportunity to speak with Desirree Madison-Biggs, their head of CX Design and Improvement Programs. In addition to recording an interview, Desirree also gave me a tour of their headquarters in San Francisco, California.

Airbnb has embedded their core values into everything that they do, and have created a culture that is deeply customer/host/employee-centric. The mantra of “belong anywhere” was omnipresent at Airbnb HQ, and for a new visitor, one of the most tangible examples was the physical space.

At HQ, employees literally belong anywhere. Teams don’t sit in permanently assigned areas, but rather move freely around the offices and work where it suits them. Whether that means a quiet space to concentrate or a communal work area for collaboration, the Airbnb office is an environment where employees don’t lay claim to a specific space, but belong to something much bigger.


Images of EU hosts who housed Syrian refugees (Photo by Emily Hagopian)

Airbnb HQ’s impressive foyer, complete with green wall (Photo by Emily Hagopian)

Work spaces immerse employees in the host and guest experience (Photo by Emily Hagopian)

Open spaces for collaboration (Photo by Mark Mahaney)

Meeting rooms modeled after real listings (Photo by Mark Mahaney)

A quiet corner – or a tent – work! (Photo by Mark Mahaney)












This immersion in the world of customers / hosts keeps the end user top-of-mind. Access to customer feedback data enables employees to see the impact of their contributions.

Desirree with the host and guest journey maps that her team developed

The interactive touchscreen enables employees to explore the journey and review recent customer satisfaction stats









The employee experience within the physical work space was just the tip of the iceberg. Desirree also discussed how the company’s values are embedded in their talent acquisition process, community engagement, and ongoing experience innovation. Airbnb customer experience is truly the gold standard, and this didn’t happen by accident. Airbnb has built community-centricity (a step beyond basic customer-centricity), into everything that they do.

Decoding the Customer is a customer experience podcast created and produced by Julia Ahlfeldt, CCXP. Julia is a customer experience strategist, speaker and business advisor. As an expert in customer experience management, she has helped global brands understand the needs of their customers and drive value through customer-centricity. For more information about Julia’s services, click here. To explore more episodes of Decoding the Customer, click here.

Julia Ahlfeldt

Author Julia Ahlfeldt

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