I recently listened to a fascinating podcast interview with the co-founder and CEO of Airbnb, Brian Cheskey. During the interview, Brian described how his company has in recent times reviewed its customer experience and, as a result, made a dramatic improvement to the services it offered.

First, he said, he spent hours travelling to his customers and meeting them face-to-face to ask them what they liked and disliked about using Airbnb. He then sat down with his team and identified a single customer and modeled an experience based on a star system like you see hotels using. (It’s important to note that he focused on one customer, not all customers.)

About this concept, Brian said: “In order to scale, you have to first do things that don’t scale at all.”

“How do you make your clients experience the best it can be?”

The process began with the Airbnb team defining a ‘one star’ experience. They imagined the worst travel experience they could think of; a guest arrived at an Airbnb property but nobody was there to greet them or let them inside.

The team then defined each level up to what it determined to be a ‘five star’ experience (to wit, something you might find at a fine hotel).

But, Brian and his team didn’t stop there. They continued define experiences all the way up to 10 and even 11 stars, which included a live band, floats and balloons, and Elon Musk greeting you on the runway to take you on a ride in his rocket ship.

While I have to believe that Brian was not serious about including a rocket ship ride with Elon Musk in a two-night Airbnb stay, it did allow them to stretch the limits of their imagination and consider how they could provide an elevated experience for their customers – maybe a ‘seven star’ experience wasn’t that unattainable?

Overall, this interview made me think about what I did with my former integration business to create a more memorable experience for my clients. I then pondered the question; how could I have delivered a ‘seven star’ experience to my clients?

When I had my company, I would try to deliver a memorable and enjoyable experience for my clients. This began with the initial consultation and first meeting, remembering you only get one chance to make a great first impression. The day would begin by personally cleaning every inch of my showroom: vacuum, mop, scrub toilets, empty waste baskets in public areas, etc. I would also cook some fresh popcorn and stock up the refrigerator with plenty of cold beverage options. All systems were tested beforehand and movies were cued up for demo tracks. Good preparation avoids heavy perspiration!

The small details also make a BIG difference.

During the course of the project, I would make a point to check-in with my clients and their builders (especially anyone involved in making the referral) to provide updates on the project. People like to be informed. The opposite is also true; people don’t like to be uninformed or guessing about what is going on, especially when making a significant investment.

At the end of the project I would schedule a time to visit the home and provide a personal demonstration of the system in operation. When I arrived at the home, I would also bring a custom-made popcorn bowl with a few DVDs, popcorn packages and candy. The bottom of the bowl featured my company name and contact details. Additionally, I included some movie tickets with my contact details printed on them to give out to their friends for referral purposes. This was my gift to the client to kick off their experience with the new entertainment system I designed and installed for them – thanking them for choosing my company.

I heard many times from clients that this made a lasting impact on them, after a long and often gruelling building process. They would comment that they had gone way over budget on the house, with any unexpected costs, and that it was a delight to receive an unexpected gift at the end. I still visit many of my old clients (as friends now) and they still use the popcorn bowls.

In fact, on the first Wednesday of every month I would call every client I finished a project in the previous month, to ask them how the system was functioning. Follow up questions would include: Are you having any issues? Do you have any questions or concerns? Would you like some further training? Are you using and enjoying your system? My ultimate goal was to ensure every client used and enjoyed their system – every day!

At the end of the project I would ask my clients to write a simple letter and send it to me, sharing their comments about working with my company. I had a whole wall in my showroom, proudly displaying these letters for countless happy clients.

Now that I reflect on those days, I have pride in the experience I delivered to many of my delighted customers, but also wonder what I could have done differently to make the experience more memorable. What would my seven star experience be for my clients? What is yours? I challenge you to pick one client and model your seven star experience for them. I would love to hear what it includes.

Please feel free to email me anytime at pete@thebigcorp.com.

Think BIG!