Meet the speakers - Andrea Finnegan from Airbnb

To start, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Dublin girl who loves to travel with a camera, have been lucky to go to Sri Lanka, Montenegro, Venice, Scotland & Iceland on photography trips (pic below of me at Jökulsárlón beach in Iceland trying to get a good shot but ended up more with wet boots!)  I have a real passion for France too, if I ever win the lotto I’Il be buying a house near Bordeaux, oh… did I say I love wine too?!!

Finally, I am addicted to coffee, I like it black and strong if you’re offering!

How did you get into your career?

After working in France for a year to improve my French, I returned to Ireland to gain more practical work experience, I started my career at United Airlines where I got the opportunity to learn how to handle challenging customer service issues, manage a large service operation and develop skills managing teams and delivering on KPIs. After 7 years at United I was lucky to get an opportunity to join Google where I managed a variety of service and sales team across different geos and business units for nearly 10 years. I then took an opportunity to join Airbnb. It was at Airbnb that I saw the growth of our community turning to social channels for customer support and saw this as a huge opportunity for us. Although I didn’t have an extensive background in social media, I did understand what customers look for in support and started to build a team to support our customers on the platform they were turning to for support. I’ve been leading the social care team for about 15 months now. 

What do you consider the greatest achievement in your work to date?

In regards to my time working within social media, I would say I’m proud of being able to convince stakeholders of the importance of social media within the customer service world and gaining support to resource this area effectively. I’m also really proud that the team has garnered industry recognition and awards despite us still being on a journey to offer the best in class support over social.

How does Social Media support your work?

Social media is core to our business and my role. For many of our community, social media is their channel of choice for customer support and for interacting with our brand so my role is to continually look at how we can improve our offering and how we scale to support the growing incoming volume while also understanding new developments in social care and their importance to our business and community. 

What is the one app you can’t live without? Personally and for your business!

Personally I love Evernote, it allows me to save interesting articles I come across on the hop to read at a later stage and helps me keep notes in one place. I must admit though I do use Facebook a lot too (probably the one that eats up most of my data!) as it allows me to keep connected to a lot of friends & family around the world. We’re also starting to use it internally as a way to communicate. From a business perspective, I’m constantly checking Facebook and Twitter, it’s important for me to see what conversations are happening and where we may be able to help our community. For example, it’s often here that I find out about natural disasters where we may have Airbnb guests travelling so that alerts me that we need to quickly collaborate with other internal teams to understand how we can help and then communicate back out to our community proactively. The most recent example, being when the Oroville Dam flooded, we quickly advised that we had opened up our disaster response tool to help house people in need.

What is the one piece of Social Media advice you would give to businesses?

The overall trend is that more and more customers are turning to social platforms for help, for many it’s their preferred channel of choice to contact a brand so my advice is to seriously consider being present on social for customer care if you’re not already. The good news is that social has been shown to be more cost effective than other channels ($1 per interaction versus $6-8 for phone/email - Nielsen) and the advantages of being present on social go beyond just solving a customer’s issue, social allows you to build a relationship with your customer base and a loyal following. It also allows you to gain a lot of data about your product/service that you can feedback to other departments so an important channel in many respects.

What do you think is the next big thing in Social Media?

The trend within social care that’s currently being discussed a lot at the moment is automation and more specifically, the use of bots to handle easy questions. With the volumes that brands are receiving and the ongoing fast growth coupled with the high expectations of users for a speedy response, this is definitely an area that brands should investigate further and trial. The important thing here will be balancing this efficiency gain with providing an authentic service.

What will your brand/ business be focusing on in the Social Media landscape this year?

There are 3 big areas of focus for us in 2017: continually scaling our social care support; expanding into new geos and platforms; moving towards a more proactive approach (education; engagement; warm lead generation…).

What can the attendees of this year’s Social Media Summit look forward to hearing from you?

I’ll be providing an insight into the scale of our social care business & sharing how we approach this scale along with the complexity of the 1-2-1 interactions that we receive while also explaining why it’s just so important for our brand.

What are you most looking forward to at the Social Media Summit this year?

The social media landscape is constantly evolving, we’re all learning as we go (right?!), an event like the Social Media Summit allows one to meet industry peers across different fields and share best practices, learnings, insights & trends, I find that invaluable.

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