You’ve ordered a latte. A grande with a thick foamy head of steamed milk. Something rich, something delicious. A relatively no-frills beverage that’s mostly devoid of the sugary syrup that’s infected so many quality caffeinated beverages over the years. “Here’s your drink,” the barista tells you.
“That’s not my drink,” you add, noting that the whipped cream and the caramel syrup that are coating your supposed beverage are certainly not what you asked for. It’s blended, too, and it’s 23 degrees outside.
You’re angry. The muscles in your neck begin to tense up, your hands start shaking. You grit your teeth and start fiercely tapping away at the counter. I might have anger management issues, you think to yourself.
“Nope — you’re right. Here’s your drink,” the barista acknowledges as he hands you your warm, far less colorful drink of choice. A swell of calm washes over you. You nod, thank him and stumble out the door into the cold.
These are minor crises, if at all. Things that occur probably every day, at least a few times a day, in the thousands upon thousands of coffee shops that dot the entire Earth. And the solutions, typically, are swift. Getting the customer their correct drink, giving them a drink on the house or, at worst, a gift card to the store.
But what if the response isn’t immediate? What if it takes a lot more time to resolve than the customer had anticipated? And what if the situation doesn’t involve just a misinterpreted order, but a destroyed house?
That’s what Airbnb, a website which allows you to rent out your house or apartment to complete strangers, is currently dealing with and trying to resolve. Recently, an Airbnb customer’s San Francisco home was ransacked and had valuable items stolen.
Initially, there was no response to her plight from Airbnb’s customer service. In fact, the woman who wrote about it suggested that Airbnb actually tried to quiet her, stating that the company recommended that she take down her blog post in which she details her horrifying discovery.
Since then, Airbnb has apologized and issued a $50,000 property damage policy, as well as doubling the size of their support staff and adding a safety department to the company. But not before the blogger’s cautionary tale hit the web and spread viral, forcing many current and future customers of Airbnb to consider the possible ramifications of renting out their houses to complete strangers. And even other horror stories have begun to surface.
All of this is ultimately painting an extremely negative image on Airbnb, and it goes to show the importance of responding quickly to situations. The fallout for Airbnb could be huge and potentially damaging to the company’s future. Which, for a company that just received $112 million in funding, probably doesn’t sound too appealing to investors.
Airbnb, as a result of this fallout, will probably be a better, more responsive company. Sometimes it takes damaging events like these before companies realize particular areas in which they can improve. Now, potential Airbnb customers will probably feel much more secure knowing that they are protected in case of theft or damage to their house.
Still, Airbnb’s slow response to their recent crisis once again reaffirms the importance of responding swiftly to customers in distress. Even a single customer can have a huge voice when it comes to the world wide web. Airbnb recently came to that realization. Other growing companies should probably take note.