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Can bad UX win you reliable customers?

· 4 min read
Wojciech Gruszczyk

My family loves traveling. Every time there is a break at school we are trying to use the time to visit new places, enjoy new tastes, and experience a refreshing sense of freedom. Since we discovered AirBnB1, Booking.com2, and companies alike a few years ago our approach to traveling changed a lot. Freedom of self-check-in, possibility to feel at home renting whole places and living close to locals. Amazing! Until this year's experience: at 11:00 PM, after waiting with 3 kids for 45 minutes for the host to turn up we found the place in a total mess. Not cleaned after previous guests, stinky and awful (I'll spare you the details, the picture below should be enough)...

Messy apartment, 11:00 PM, 300km away from home...

Bad experience​

As you can imagine we had to quickly find a new place. The kids were tired, and my wife was angry. My older son googled the options - we had to take a hostel (backpackers place) as there were no other options available immediately. The place we had to leave was booked on Airbnb. And the host turned out to be rather clumsy... didn't offer any help, just apologized. I think that this exhausts the definition of a bad user experience.

Lost customer?​

Normally such a situation means one thing - unhappy customers, which implies very negative opinions spreading through the word of mouth.

Not for Airbnb! About the time we declared to arrive at the place AirBnB checked if we are ok (prompt on mobile) - when I reported back that we are unhappy and had to leave the place magic happened:

  • Airbnb asked if we are at any threat (I guess answering yes would be a call to action including calling the police, fortunately, we were not in this situation),
  • after a few minutes, I had a call from them to check if we are OK or needed any assistance solving the situation
  • during the following days (we were traveling further, and Viena was just a pit-stop for the airport) Airbnb contacted me several times, all the money was returned and the difference between the price of the apartment and the hostel was refunded.

Even though the one to be blamed for the problem was the host, Airbnb took the whole blame and helped me to resolve the situation. They had proven that the customer matters and that you can count on them in case of a problem. What an amazing user experience! Even though I had initial issues with that travel, one thing will not change for sure - I'll remain a reliable customer of Airbnb!


Many times in my career I observed how startups fail to keep customers. In extreme cases, top management tried to convince the team that losing that particular customer is good for the company (complaining customer, "We didn't earn with them", etc.). What a mistake! In my opinion, keeping a customer and making them happy is critical due to several aspects:

  • customers bring you income (obviously),
  • customers are your representatives - happy ones will bring more customers, disappointed ones will spread negative word of mouth,
  • tough customers reveal problems with your product or service - listen to them carefully.

If Airbnb pays so much attention to keeping a customer happy (they could just let me go, couldn't they?), there must be a good reason behind it. Customer is king and you should also fight to keep your customers happy, for any price! Have you ever been in a similar situation? Have you experienced a similar happy end in terms of the UX company guaranteeing you after a big failure? Share your thought in the comments!


  1. AirBnB