Roxana's Airbnb Jobs to be Done Interview
Hear Roxana's vivid description of her trip to Budapest and the first time she booked a say on Airbnb, and learn about how it can help us uncover the Jobs to be Done that Airbnb is hired to do.
Every week people ask me how they can get better at interviewing using the Jobs-to-be-Done method and how they can do a better job applying Jobs to be Done to their business.
I’m hoping to develop a new way to answer by building a catalog of interviews that you can watch, study, and use to improve your own technique. My plan is to conduct interviews across a wide variety of products and share out the entire process.
This interview is the story of how Roxana decided to book her first stay on Airbnb. You’ll enjoy how openly she shares all aspects of the experience. From the first spark of an idea that she wants to visit Budapest, through the dark alleyway that she endures as she figures out how to access her apartment at midnight for the first time.
The context of this interview could take a few different shapes if I was conducting it as part of an actual project:
I’m on the team at Airbnb or one of their competitors and I’m trying to figure out how to increase bookings, better position the product, or figure out where people are underserved and we could add a feature to help them.
I’m thinking about launching a product to compete with Airbnb and I want to discover where their customers are underserved so that my offering can cater to those needs.
During the interview I wanted to make sure that I uncovered:
What was she using before? What were her go-to solutions for this job?
How did she first hear about Airbnb?
How did it take her so long to use Airbnb for the first time? It’s been around for a while. Does she not travel often?
How often does she travel? For work? For pleasure?
I hope you find the interview useful, and if you have a product or service that you’d like me to explore in a future interview, leave me a note in the comments!
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My Thoughts - Post Interview
I’d love to hear your reaction to the interview:
What were the four forces that you identified?
What opportunities does Airbnb have based on what you heard?
What opportunities do competitors or startups have?
What questions would you ask her that I didn’t ask?
Here are my thoughts immediately after the interview ended:
My Post-Interview Notes
What went well
She was incredibly open to sharing and didn’t hold back on details.
She answered the screener honestly and ended up being a great candidate to interview as she was a true first-time Airbnb purchaser.
What didn’t go well
If I wanted to make it an even truer switch I could add a question to my screener that asks if the participant had ever stayed in an Airbnb before. As it turns out, she had, but this was the first time she had made the purchase herself.
Notes on technique
My ability to get her to really focus on specific situations using the documentary metaphor could have been better. You can hear plenty of “I usually just …” and “most of the time …”. That’s not quite as good as getting a specific description of what happened that specific time.
Product and business opportunities
Airbnb got the booking for the first leg of the trip (Budapest), but what about Vienna and Prague!? There’s an opportunity to address there.
She makes up her mind to make the purchase, but then has to wait some time (a day?) for her points to transfer from her credit card to her Airbnb account. This adds the potential to lose the sale, and anxiety on her side: What if someone books the place before I can book it?
The Four Forces of Progress
It’s a good exercise to identify the forces that we hear in each interview. The lists from each interview become especially powerful when we’re conducting a set of ten or more interviews on one topic and we can begin to find patterns.
What is happening in the person’s life that is motivating them to try something new? It often helps to list these in the form of: When I am ______.
When I’m feeling like I’ve outgrown the hostel scene and want a little more privacy and convenience.
When I’m looking for more adventure and challenge than a hotel offers me.
What about the new solution is making them believe that it will help them make progress? It often helps to list these in the form of: So I can ______.
So I can feel like I’m actually living in the city for a week.
So I can have the opportunity to figure things out like going shopping, cooking, and doing laundry.
So I can have the chance to be alone and make whatever decision I want without it impacting anyone else. “Whether I make a left or right like it doesn't even matter. It doesn't impact anyone else.”
What about the new solution is giving them pause?
What if my points don’t transfer fast enough and I miss out on the apartment?
What existing solutions could they fall back to if they don’t find a way to make progress?
I could book at a hostel and get my own room. I’d at least have a little more privacy.
I could book at a hotel. It’s easy to quickly find one in any city in a good location.
I conducted the recruit using Respondent.io. The goal of the screener is to recruit someone who made the decision to book a reservation using Airbnb recently, and who was ultimately in charge of the decision. If we get this part right we’ll spend our time interviewing the right person and being able to get to the causality behind the decision.
Recruiting happened quickly, with eleven people filling out the screener within an hour or two. Three out of the eleven had filled out all of the questions with qualifying answers.
Respondent recommended a $125 incentive for the interview and I went with their recommendation. It falls within the $100 to $150 incentive that I’d usually provide if I was doing interviews without using Respondent.
When did you book a stay for the first time using Airbnb?
First we want to make sure that the decision happened recently for the person to remember details. Here I’ve chosen to disqualify anyone who made their first Airbnb reservation over six months ago.
In the interview we’ll discover that Roxana selected 2 to 3 months ago from the list below, but actually booked closer to 6 or 7 months ago. This is fairly common. Our recollection of time is a funny thing. In future recruits we’ll explore additional ways to manage this.
Who chose where you would stay?
Next we need to learn about who made the decision and make sure that we’re interviewing the actual decision maker. Here I’m disqualifying if they say that someone else made the decision, or that they were part of a group with someone else acting as the ultimate decision-maker:
Who paid for the stay?
A key part of the interview process is trying to unpack the moments when shoppers are asking themselves questions like, “If I make this purchase and spend this money, will this solution help me make the progress that I’m hoping to make?” (they don’t use those words, obviously). For that reason, we want to make sure that we’re talking to the person who was making the decision to exchange their money for the expected value. Here I’m disqualifying people who say that someone else paid for the stay:
Has the stay occurred yet?
I can learn about whether the solution delivered value and whether the person was underserved if they’ve used the solution before the interview happens. I was uncertain about how difficult this recruit would be, so I allowed people to qualify with both options, hopeful that I’d be able to find participants who answered yes to this question while also matching the rest of my qualification criteria:
How many times have you booked stays using Airbnb?
Even though the title of the study is Tell me about your first time booking a stay on Airbnb and the first question asks When did you book a stay for the first time using Airbnb? I still want to double-check to make sure that I’m able to interview about a switch (the first time buying the product/service). This question helps further ensure that we’re going to talk about new behavior and not just repeat purchases:
Have you ever booked stays on Airbnb competitors?
Often we can move between solutions that are quite similar without much struggle or consideration (I usually drink Coke, but this time I’ll have a Pepsi instead). For this reason, I was hoping to interview someone whose Airbnb reservation was the first purchase that they’d made with this kind of service. Similar to Q4 above, I was uncertain how difficult it would be to recruit someone who hadn’t used any of these services before, so I left the qualification criteria open for this question, knowing that I could look through each response to hopefully find someone who selected “No” while also matching my other criteria:
Our conversation may be used for training purposes.
Since I’m sharing the interview here I wanted to make sure that the person was comfortable with the idea before raising their hand to be interviewed:
Here are Roxana’s responses:
My iPad Notes
Let me know what you think and what questions you have about the interview technique, specific questions I asked, recruiting, or anything else that comes to mind! If you have a product or service in mind that you’d like me to explore, leave me a note in the comments.