"If you want to build something that’s truly viral you have to create a total mindf**k experience that you tell everyone about. If I say, ‘What can I do to make this [product] better?’ you’ll say something small. If I were to say, ‘Reid, what would it take for me to design something that you would literally tell every single person you’ve ever encountered?’ You start to ask these questions and it really helps you think through the problem.
We basically took one part of our product and we extrapolated: what would a 5-star experience be? Then we went crazy. A 5-star experience is: You knock on the door, they open the door, they let you in. Great. That’s not a big deal. You’re not going to tell every friend about it. You might say, ‘I used Airbnb. It worked.’ So we thought, ‘What would a 6-star experience be?’
A 6-star experience: You knock on the door, the host opens and shows you around. On the table would be a welcome gift. It would be a bottle of wine, maybe some candy. You’d open the fridge. There’s water. You go to the bathroom, there’s toiletries. The whole thing is great. That’s a 6-star experience. You’d say, ‘Wow I love this more than a hotel. I’m definitely going to use Airbnb again. It worked. Better than I expected.’
What’s a 7-star experience? You knock on the door. The host opens. Get in. ‘Welcome. Here’s my full kitchen. I know you like surfing. There’s a surfboard waiting for you. I’ve booked lessons for you. It’s going to be an amazing experience. By the way here’s my car. You can use my car. And I also want to surprise you. There’s this best restaurant in the city of San Francisco. I got you a table there.’ And you’re like, ‘Whoa. This is way beyond.’
So what would a 10-star check in be? A 10-star check in would be The Beatles check in. In 1964. I’d get off the plane and there’d be 5,000 high school kids cheering my name with cars welcoming me to the country. I’d get to the front yard of your house and there’d be a press conference for me, and it would be just a mindf**k experience.
So what would an 11-star experience be? I would show up at the airport and you’d be there with Elon Musk and you’re saying: ‘You’re going to space.’
The point of the the process is that maybe 9, 10, 11 are not feasible. But if you go through the crazy exercise, there’s some sweet spot between "They showed up and they opened the door" and "I went to space." That’s the sweet spot. You have to almost design the extreme to come backwards.
Lots of good ideas here. Airbnb hosts will also find some good ideas in our new book: "Spin the Bottle Service - Hospitality in the Age of AI". Personal stories of what true differentiators are, gathered from 30 years of experience from the highest levels of the hospitality industry and as global travellers.