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Customer Service

Focus Groups

Trevor No Comments

On previous posts I discussed “Human-Centered” design and talked about how it all starts with empathy and relationships.

Although there are many tools to conduct primary research on customer needs, one of the most effective tools is focus groups: meetings where you interact with and gather first-hand information from a solid batch of potential users.

To help you build and conduct a successful focus group, we’ve assembled 10 steps, that according to field experts, you must take into consideration!

Source: metacconects.org

Source: metacconects.org

  1. Establish a clear purpose for the meeting

 Experts from Duke University stress that a focus group is NOT a marketing opportunity, a lecture, a partnership meeting or a problem-solving session.

Instead, these meetings focus solely on gathering feedback and customer perspective on a specific product or service that will be offered. That’s why it is important to set conversation boundaries and work with predetermined questions.

  1. Decide how many focus groups you’ll need

Marketing professionals suggest you conduct between 3-4 meetings to gather all pertinent information.

You may schedule following meetings a week apart and ask the exact same questions to different groups. When no one has anything new to say, you know you’ve reached your goal.

Read More: Human-Centered Design
  1. Choose your participants…very closely

 Although diversity is a very important concept, when you conduct a focus group, Duke University suggests you keep the group fairly homogeneous.

The ideal is to have people who’ve never met but can feel comfortable around each other. That’s why you must take into strong consideration the social and cultural contexts of the group you’ll be interviewing.

Beware of recruiting mixed groups if there’s a strong sense of “machismo” in the country. Be also mindful of economic and social power gaps. You wouldn’t want people to feel intimidated or inferior to other participants, so much that responses may be biased or anchored.

Try to set a specific age range for your group and make sure you don’t bring in extremely dominant personalities that may steer all the conversation in one direction.

And finally, remember to keep the group small! If you don’t know how many are too many, follow the “two pizza rule”: if the team can’t be fed with only two pizzas then it is too big.

Source: hubspot.net

Source: hubspot.net

  1. Structure your questions

 Try to stay within the 8-12 question range. Remember focus groups are based on open-ended questions and it may take a long time to gather every perspective.

 Make sure the questions are short but not written in a way that inspire “yes” and “no” answers.

 Start with simple questions to get the group acclimated, then proceed to the most insightful ones and finish by asking the group if there’s anything else they would like to add.

If you’re making a comparison, experts suggest you interview groups A & B in separately.

  1. Find a stellar moderator

Moderators are the key to incredible results. To avoid bias, Ruth Peebles, President of The INS Group, advises that moderators be third-party facilitators that are not affiliated with your organization.

Moderators must have an engaging personality to make participants feel free and welcomed at all times. They must keep the conversation within scope and prevent the meeting from steering in a wrong or biased direction.

Also, it is suggested you also find a separate note taker!


  1. Set you meeting “specifics” and agenda

 Set a date, place and time that works for your chosen demographics. It is advised you seek a place outside your offices to make the conversation feel neutral.

Times are better after working hours so it doesn’t interfere with people’s schedules.

Write down your agenda and share it with your moderator and note taker before the meeting. Make sure you clearly communicate your goals and expectations and go over the questions at least once.

  1. Build your recruitment strategy

 All right, so how are you going to approach your participants?

If you belong to a large multinational social media and public ads could help your case. You can offer monetary incentives to participants and have them register on your website.

If you’re a smaller business you may like to email or call the people you consider would give you a good perspective. And, if you can’t offer money for participation, you can always offer coupons, certificates or prizes (company care packages are usually great!).

Duke University also recommends using local newspaper ads and flyers. If your participants are youngsters posting your call on university bulletin boards might work pretty well.

Think about your demographic and then take advantage of the means of communication they use most. And then make sure they feel the meeting would be a win-win situation.

Once people register or show interest make sure to call or email them to confirm participation. Share once again the place and date of the event.



LibGuides focus group recruitment flyer. Recovered from,slanypublications.org

LibGuides focus group recruitment flyer. Recovered from,slanypublications.org


  1. When conducting the meeting…

 Ruth Peebles recommends you start with icebreakers to make participants feel comfortable.

Continue to communicate the purpose of the meeting, procedures, expectations and desired outcomes. An important thing you must never forget is to promise confidentiality! Make them sign agreements if needed.

Make sure the meeting goes accordingly to the agenda and record responses in more than one way. You can write them down on posters, post-its, use video, voice recorders or any other material you can think of.

9. Be precise to analyze

 After the focus group it is important that your team sits down to discuss major findings, segment these appropriately and identify specific thoughts, stories and suggestions.

You can log your result using spreadsheets, graphs and tables. And then present them on a slide show to help the team visualize where your new product stands amongst your target market’s needs and expectations.

For more guidance on analyzing data, you can check out Duke University’s “Guidelines for Conducting a Focus Group”

Source: datapine.com

Source: datapine.com

  1. Share

Finally, share the results of your findings with your participants and keep scheduling meetings to gather more and more information!!

For more empathy-building tools check the LUMA Institute’s “Innovating for People: Handbook of Human-Centered Design”.

Angry customer

8 Steps to Diffuse Angry Customers

Trevor No Comments


Dealing with angry customers is never pleasant, but how you deal with these situations will impact your business. You will either create a brand ambassador that will push your products and services to their friends because of the fantastic customer service they received, or create an incredibly displeased customer that will just speak awful things about the company every chance they get. Next time you get an angry customer, remember to follow these steps.

One: Remain Calm. Resist yelling back or being rude since there is nothing to be gained. It will only escalate and make the situation even worse.

Two: Don’t Take it Personally. The customer is dissatisfied with the product or service, and not with you. So remember: don’t take it personally.

Three: Listen. Brush up on your listening skills. Usually, angry customers are the result of faulty communications and misunderstandings. Do you best to listen and understand their complaint by allowing them to express themselves. Show that you were listening by summarizing what they have just said. Body language is also crucial during this time. Show that you are listening by keeping eye contact, and keeping your arms uncrossed (avoid coming off as defensive). 

Four: Sympathize. We’ve all been in a situation where we are not completely satisfied with the quality we’ve received, so show that you understand where they are coming from.

Five: Apologize. Regardless if the complaint is legitimate or not, retain the customer by providing an apology followed by a potential solution. Keep it professional by providing a straightforward response: “I’m sorry you are not satisfied with our product, let’s see what we can do to make things right”.

Six: Find a Solution. The customer is here because they expect some sort of solution to their complaints. So start by asking how the situation can be remedied, or offer some realistic solutions.

Seven: Unwind. After the situation has been diffused and resolved, take some time to yourself to unwind from the stressful situation. This will allow you to address the next unpleasant situation with the same positive attitude.

Eight: Follow Up. After the problem has been resolved take the time to follow up with the customer. A quick phone call or email can go a long way to show that you care, and it brings in loyal customers in the end.

customers yelling

Types of Customers

Not only is it important to know how to diffuse angry customers, it is also important to identify the type of customer, which in turn, will allow you to better address them. This study identifies the following types of customers:

The Meek Customer. The type of customer that generally does not complain even though there are dissatisfied with the service or quality of the product received. To get to the bottom of the problem, you must work hard at soliciting comments.

The Aggressive Customer. The complete opposite of the ‘Meek Customer’, this type of customer complains without restraint in a loud and lengthy manner. This type of customer doesn’t respond well to excuses or reasons why the produce or service was unsatisfactory, so focus on listening on the problem. When the person is done complaining, agree that the problem exists and offer a solution.

The High-Roller Customer. This is a VIP customer that expects the best and is willing to pay for it. Like the Aggressive Customer, the High-Roller has no interest in excuses, they just want to know how the problem will be remedied.

The Rip-Off Customer. This type of customer isn’t interested in resolving the issue but rather, getting something that they are not entitled to receive. If your efforts to satisfy this customer is met with constant and repetitive “not good enough”, then you know that you have a rip-off customer in your hands. When you deal with this customer it’s important to remain objective, and consider asking “What can I do to make things right?” after the first “not good enough” is expressed.

The Chronic Complainer Customer. Some people just like to complain and they are never satisfied (because there is always something wrong). However, this type of customer is still a customer, and they can’t be ignored or dismissed. When you deal with the Chronic Complainer you will require extraordinary patience. Listen carefully and don’t get angry (remember that it’s not personal), and offer a sincere apology. Unlike the Rip-Off Customer, this type of customer will generally accept and appreciate your efforts to make things right. This customer, really just wants an apology and appreciates sympathy. The plus side of this customer is that despite their complaining, they tend to be good customers and will often tell others about the positive response they received to their complaints.

Sources: Forbes, Business KnowHow, UFL

hotel concierge team baggage cart

How the hotel industry will never be the same again

Trevor No Comments

Online Travel Agencies (OTA) are changing significantly how hotels do business. You, more than likely, have booked a hotel using online travel agents such as Expedia, booking.com or Hipmunk; considered to stay in other people’s home through Airbnb, Housetrip or Homeaway; and probably checked out the hotel reviews in Trip Advisor or Yelp.

What is a pressing concern for hotels is that OTAs are exercising more and more power over them. Any booking conducted over an OTA means a commission received; these commissions are negotiated behind closed doors and can range up to 25%. Furthermore, Intercontinental Hotels group, the biggest operator worldwide has about 4,500 hotels; in contrast, Booking.com has a listing of half a million hotels worldwide.

Online Travel Agencies: Benefit or Not?

Considering the large chunk of commissions that these online travel agencies charge, should they be considered detrimental to the industry?

According to Tony Pollard, President of the Hotel Association of Canada states that it really depends on how you use OTAs.

“This is inventory that a hotel offers up on the internet through a third party that derives a commission. So if you have a few rooms left at the end of the day, and you know that you’re not going to sell them and want to put them in an OTA, then it’s a great move to make. But if you’re selling all your rooms through an online travel agency, then you’re only leaving money on the table”.

Cho Wong, managing director of Supranational Hotels, say that 30% of the bookings in his chain of 800 hotels come from Booking.com; and that he focuses on the repeat customer.

“We need to learn from other retailers. If you have a voucher so that next time you get 20% off or free drinks at the bar, you will come back”.

OTAs won’t let a hotel lower prices to customers who book directly; but if you start creating a loyal customer base through promotional offers, and also giving sweeteners for people who book direct at full price, it may seem like the perks compensate for the standard price.

hotel amenities kit


Peer-to-peer travel: A threat to the Hotel Industry?

According to a survey carried out by World Trade Market 2014 Industry Report, 9% have booked a holiday through a site like airbnb, Housetrip or HomeAway. What’s interesting is that out of that percentage, 86% say that they would do it again.

Dorian Harris, founder of Skoosh, sees Airbnb (and similar) as “the biggest threat or challenge to the hotel industry of all”.

Tony Pollard, offers his thoughts on these type of service:

“[peer-to-peer is an ] uncontrolled and unregulated industry that goes out and functions providing rooms, but without having to have all the regulatory conditions, including everything from: health, safety, comfort, bookings, third party liabilities. All of these things are completely unregulated…”

Dual-Service through Reviews

With sites like Trip Advisor, no bad customer service goes unnoticed pressuring hotels to improve and maintain their customer service standards. If someone feels like they got terrible service in a hotel or restaurant, they will undoubtedly write a review worthy of their experience.

On the flip side, Airbnb offers a dual review service where both the renter and rentee can review each other. This seems like the new trend, where customer reviews are leveraged by venue reviews of the customer.



Sources: BBC News & Business News Network