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For a long moment post-COVID, the future of the travel sector felt rather up in the air. The short-term rental industry is one so closely correlated to travel and tourism, and it was not immune from the perils of the global pandemic that wrought the entire sector. Through closed borders and travel bans, Airbnb hosts couldn’t rely entirely on staycations alone.
And so, when the borders reopened and bans eventually lifted, it was imperative that customer trust and travel confidence had to be regained. Their needs and expectations had to be met once again in order to tease out the once all too obvious desire to travel and stay in new settings.
Providing memorable customer experiences has always been an important focus and an invaluable strategy for travel operators, and now more than ever this focus has been the key to aiding the sector’s recovery throughout the last couple of years. One of the inventive manners in which Airbnb has taken to reducing friction and improving their customer experience is through their Translation Engine.
Where the need stems from
When booking accommodation for a long weekend away, it goes without saying that the main goal is to relax and enjoy your surroundings to the fullest. What can often get in the way of this understandably reasonable goal is the amount of friction that presents itself within the process.
The weeks preceding the trip are spent trying to gain clarity from countless emails. Directions to pick up the keys, who or what to ask for, how to turn off the security alarm: an assortment of questions that are difficult to ask without feeling like you’re annoying your hosts and making them regret renting their property to you in the first place.
The difficulty of these interactions can only be further compounded by potential language barriers that present themselves. Perhaps the listing is not in your native language and running it through Google Translate misses the nuance behind travel language, or the property owners do not speak your language and communication becomes strenuous as a result.
How it works
The Translation Engine tool built for Airbnb seeks to reduce these frictions for host and guest, using AI tech to seamlessly translate the platform’s user-generated content - descriptions, reviews, messaging and communications - into the reader’s primary language. When the feature was announced last year, Airbnb said:
“Previously, guests looking for a place to stay would sometimes find a mix of languages bundled into one listing. And some guests might skip over listings written in an unfamiliar language in favour of spaces listed in their own language. The Translation Engine will automatically translate your listing into each reader’s preferred language, making it easier for guests to get the details they’re looking for.”
The feature works automatically, reducing the amount of additional effort required by the user to press options to translate or to copy and paste listings through external translation services. As well as this, the technology specifically understands the unique language and colloquial phrases associated with travel. The very literal translation of “House feet in the water” becomes “beachfront house”, as the technology learns from the user-generated content on the platform and grows smarter over time.
This keen usage of technology to provide frictionless experience assists massively with Airbnb’s purposes of promoting the hosts that provide accommodation on the platform and enabling globetrotters worldwide to find accommodation wherever they may travel.
What is its effect?
Great customer experience removes any friction from the customer mission or things to do and this instant translation ticks that box from both sides of the transaction. The focus on language services for a brand that is so distinctly global helps eliminate barriers for seamless communication.
All in all, this automation of localisation directly improves the experience that Airbnb provides to its customers. The translation engine is a intrinsic to building a positive community and culture on the platform that transcends language barriers and opens new doors for guest and host alike.
Airbnb also provides its users with personalised content based on the location of their current or upcoming trip, providing them with a curated itinerary of suggested activities and locations. This combines with the automated localisation efforts to directly improve the trips of its users, building feelings of familiarity, guidance, and belonging.
The removal of language barriers and provision of curated travel experiences combine to provide Airbnb with a truly customer-centric outlook: an acute crossover between localisation and personalisation that immerses the user into their trip and provides frictionless interactions without sacrificing the authenticity and value of its user-generated content!
Platforms like Airbnb are founded upon the relationships built between strangers through the context of host and guest, and to leverage modern technology in such a manner that provides smooth and seamless communications regardless of native language is a great example of high-quality customer experience.