How Bad Experiences with Uber and Airbnb Inspired Me To Design an Experience Style Guide for Them

Have you ever had a bad experience with Uber or Airbnb or any on-demand company for that matter? I have on multiple occassions. In each instance, I was always surprised by how helpless I felt and more so, just how very little customer service infrastructure existed in these critical moments of truth. But even though I had several less-than-desirable experiences, I continued to use these services more and more. This got me thinking. What was it about the great experiences that I appreciated and what could this new generation of on-demand companies do to improve? Furthermore, what could they teach all brands about improving experiences for a connected generation of consumers?

I was so intrigued by these questions that I spent the better part of 2015–2016 thinking about it. The result is an unconventional report that’s now live on Slideshare, “Branding in the On-Demand Economy: Lessons learned from Airbnb and Uber to design experiences in the last mile.

The On-Demand Value Proposition of Immediacy, Convenience, Personalization and Transparency

As a connected consumer, the mobility, usability, and conveniences inherent in these products outweigh the negatives (aka growing pains). More so, when compared to the traditional services they’re aiming to disrupt, Airbnb, Uber and the like have forever changed the standards for customer expectations, behaviors and ultimately the experiences they wish to have. Once you’ve tasted a new and better experience, it’s difficult to go backward.

Many dominant brands built their reputations on giving customers what they could expect…consistently predictable experiences. Now, connected consumers want the opposite of that. The on-demand economy is just that. If you want something now, there’s an app for that. Consumers are now being conditioned to expect a service not only in real-time but also through an integrated mobile experience that fuses immediacy, convenience, personalization and transparency.

Marketing in an on-demand economy also exposes companies to older but nonetheless important principles of good business…employee engagement and customer engagement. As the old adage goes, “happy employees make happy customers.” At the same time, the on-demand economy has democratized experiences, flattening the hierarchy that existed between brands, employees and customers. Now what employees and customers experience affects the impressions and experiences of others. What more, everything lives online now and these shared experiences influence the decisions of others. It’s no longer about business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C), social media and the on-demand economy are transforming marketplaces in to people-to-people or peer-to-peer (P2P) exchanges.

Your brand is the sum of the experiences employees and customers have with your brand, in each touchpoint, throughout their lifecycle. This means that experiences require design in each moment for employees and customers. The elements and emotional architecture that defines experiences must also ratchet up to and down from the brand level. For connected consumers, it’s more than marketing, it’s emotional. And, it comes down to engagement, transparency and trust. This means that everything is now marketing. Brands need more than a style guide, they need an experience style guide.

Services, Policies, Products, Customer Support, Customer Experience, Employee Engagement, Company Culture, Rewards/Incentiviation, etc.

Credit: Rob Cottingham

Every fabric of your business is now exposed to a connected and influential swarm of human beings who share and consume experiences with an insatiable appetitie. Just look at the brand and reputation beating United is undergoing. Whodda thunk that leggings and fine print on tickets would become part of branding strategies? Experience architects…that’s who. Instead of fighting innovation or attempting to sweep it under the rug, experience architects now must evaluate everything that’s broken and dated and also explore new horizons for direct and indirect competitors who are raising the bar or moving the goal posts for experiential bliss.

Brands are More Than Clever Marketing and Logos

In 2016 and 2014, Uber and Airbnb underwent significant rebranding campaigns to shift into their next phase of maturity and global appeal. But as you know, a great brand is more than a logo. As you’ve more than certainly read, Uber is going through its fair share of brand crises.

Credit: Rob Cottingham

A great brand is only part creative. Great brands are defined by the experiences that people have and share in each touchpoint and throughout their lifecycle. That means that products, services, representatives, policies, marketing, everything, now serve as the pillars of your brand and as such, they require thoughtful and integrated experience architecture.

Now more than ever, it’s about people, those who are and aren’t like us, and bringing people together in meaningful ways. It’s human-centered and empathetic. Your brand, reputation and the perception of your work is or will be separated by what you create and what people experience and share. That divide is where your work begins.”

If it’s one thing we’re learning it’s that the on-demand economy is giving way to the experience economy. Design for it.

Please download and share my latest report.

Brian Solis is a world renowned digital analyst at Altimeter, a Prophet company, keynote speaker, and author. His latest book, X: Where Business Meets Design, explores the future of brand and customer engagement through experience design. Follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook. Invite him to speak at your next event.

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