Lessons From a Rental: Customer Experience vs. Value Proposition

Present a positive Customer Experience beforeWhen a Rainmaker executive recently embarked on a trip to Chicago using a popular vacation rental site, he didn’t expect to receive a valuable lesson in advertising and Customer Experience (CX) design. But, that’s exactly what he got.

A one-room studio apartment overlooking Lake Michigan boasted of a scenic view and generous accommodations including a “fitness center.” All in all, it seemed like a relaxing, cozy place to spend some time in the Windy City. After doing a little research, the date was settled and the trip was booked.

Seeds of Doubt

Prior to departure, the host began to send information about the booking which raised red flags. Although a critical part of a good customer experience is communication, we assume the communication is for the benefit of the customer. communication is a part of customer experienceFirst, the check-in time was shifted several hours to 6:00 PM. Second, the host explained that there “should” be a place to hang clothes in the dressing room (also the TV was broken). Finally, our executive was advised to use a side door to access the apartment building because of overly scrupulous personnel at the front desk. Just because you practice good communication and transparency to your customer, it should not be used as a method change the experience that had already been established.

The executive was not too concerned about the TV. Nevertheless, he wondered,

  1. Were any other important details subject to last minute change? The new check-in time was accommodatable, but given that it had been set in stone, it decreased confidence in the host’s other terms.
  2. Exactly what parts of the apartment were accessible? Given the non-committal language about a clothing rack, our executive wondered what other amenities “should” be available and which would not.
  3. Was this situation entirely safe? Given that he had nearly been advised to sneak in through a back door, our executive felt slightly worried that he wasn’t supposed to be there.

His journey wasn’t off to a very confident start, but these misgivings weren’t enough to cancel an itinerary which had already been planned in detail. He decided to take the plunge and hope for the best.

An Unsurprising Outcome

poor customer expereienceAfter arriving and checking in (the side door wasn’t too hard to find), our executive was disappointed but not very surprised by the state of his studio apartment, which was nearly empty aside from a few towels and a barren kitchen cabinet.

The “fitness” room turned out to be the bathroom, and the bathroom toilet could not flush toilet paper. The host had left a trail of handwritten notes explaining these details and suggesting workarounds. The executive was amused enough to take pictures for the sake of posterity:

After kicking himself in the teeth for a little while, our executive laughed it off and started to muse about the disconnect between what the host had advertised and what the host had provided.

Value Proposition vs. Experience

Our executive assumed the best about his host: the host might have neglected to mention the defunct toilet, the sneaky access door or the cramped kitchen upfront, but technically had not lied about anything. There was indeed a “fitness room,” a view of Lake Michigan and even a clothing rack.

But something simply didn’t add up between how the host perceived what she was offering, how it was presented, and how the actual experience felt from the perspective of a customer. These three elements were out of alignment, and an apartment which could have been a positive experience for the right tenant became a negative experience for someone who wanted something different.

After his trip concluded, our executive used it as an object lesson in the tendency of businesses to design and represent products to align with their own bias rather than provide total customer satisfaction from start to finish.

Thinking Like a Customer

Poor CX happens when the view of a customer and the view of a business are out of alignment. A dissatisfied customer doesn’t necessarily prove that anything is wrong with the final product – but there probably is something wrong with the journey.

Good CX takes the entire journey into account by understanding what a customer wants and needs upfront, and aligning their expectations with what you can realistically provide to meet them. In the next step, you can easily exceed those expectations by providing exactly what was promised and then some.

This basic strategy creates loyal brand advocates and repeat business, reduces the probability of negative reviews, and ensures a positive baseline for continual development. In the end, a broken toilet doesn’t have to put a landlord out of business – as long as they’re upfront about it.


Rainmaker is a leader in cloud technology enablement, partnering with companies to accelerate growth, overcome challenges, and achieve success. Since 2002, we have expertly completed over 1,800 Salesforce.com implementations in organizations varying from Fortune 500 companies to small businesses. Our process-driven approach delivers innovative, clear solutions that can be used to transform business as you know it. Contact us today!