Me to the World. Let me rent you a bedroom for the night; plan a packaged tour of the neighborhood; I’ll pick you up at the airport; let you use my lawn-mower (for a small fee); even write a poem for you. Tap into my resources, my skills and belongings. I am in business in this shared economy, and the world is my stage!
Who knew that Airbnb could percolate this revolution, starting with some clever apartment dwellers who decided to rent out their couch during a convention in San Francisco. That pad did not crash, rather cascaded into a whole new realm of possibilities. And, what will provide the thrust is my reputation, which in the grand scheme is the only thing that counts. It is my word, my integrity, my Brand.
Thomas Friedman of the New York Times got it right in the July 20,2014 Sunday Review with his “And Now for Bit of Good News…” when he addressed the sharing economy during an interview with Brian Chesky, a co-founder of Airbnb. You may not like Friedman’s politics or be scared to death of these new company platforms like Airbnb or Uber, but the OpEd will enthrall you with the potential and energy that is out there for all of us. We are that global village. Consider a few recent stats from Airbnb:
- Over 17 million total guests have stayed on Airbnb;
- Roughly 120,000 people stayed in Brazil in Airbnb-rented rooms for the World Cup, including travelers from over 150 different countries. Airbnb hosts in Brazil earned roughly $38 million from reservations during the World Cup;
- In Paris, nearly 20,000 people were staying in Airbnb rooms on July 5, 2014. Two years ago, that number was under 4,000.
Admittedly, Airbnb will have challenges from communities all over the world, regarding laws, zoning and taxes. However, some, like in the city of Portland, OR, do understand the transformation which is occurring, and the Editorial Board of The Oregonian newspaper addressed the phenomenon. “Trying to keep Portland residents from renting out their spare bedrooms to tourists via the Internet is as futile as forbidding them from selling old gear on Craigslist. They're doing it, they like the extra cash, and there's no going back… Portland would be among the nation's first cities to deliberately adopt Airbnb-friendly regulations…(Mayor Charlie) Hales argues that it's better for cities to deal with the reality of the sharing economy than ignore it and let it continue unregulated…The Internet is changing everything in ways that we weren't necessarily ready for or aren't even necessarily happy about…We ought to figure out how to run apace with this rapid change when we can." Other cities and communities will not be as progressive or relenting. But, do keep in mind, your average citizen is making some money; it is hard to take back that opportunity.
Airbnb certainly figured out the platform template, connecting technology to every user, creating value. They also introduced several new components – full participant disclosure (profiles), user reviews and a means for recourse (complaint satisfaction), essentially, establishing trust and reputation. As Chesky noted in the OpEd, “I think we’re going to move back to a place where the world is a village again — a place where a lot of people know each other and trust each other ... and where everyone has a reputation that everyone else knows.”
He further offered some thoughts about how the sharing economy could complement our existing economy. “Today… you may have many jobs and many different kinds of income, and you will accumulate different reputations, based on peer reviews, across multiple platforms of people. ... You may start by delivering food, but as an aspiring chef you may start cooking your own food and delivering that and eventually you do home-cooked meals and offer a dining experience in your own home.” Just as Airbnb was “able to find use for that space you never found use for, it will be the same for people. That skill, that hobby that you knew was there but never used it,” the sharing economy will be able to monetize it.”
The future looks fascinating, as everyone can become an entrepreneur and have brand value.
John Hendrie is the author of the LRA blog, focusing on anything and everything about customer experience. LRA Worldwide is the leading global provider of Customer Experience Measurement services for multinational companies with complex customer interactions. For over 30 years, LRA’s innovative brand standards audits, quality assurance inspections, mystery shopping programs, research, and consulting services have helped ensure our clients deliver consistent, memorable, and differentiated experiences to their customers. Many of the world's preeminent global hospitality brands, as well as companies in the gaming, dining, healthcare, sports and entertainment, real estate, retail and travel industries choose LRA to help them measure and improve the customer experience. For more information, visit www.LRAWorldwide.com.
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