26
Mar

Five Ways to Build a Thriving Customer Advisory Board

By Evan Klein

Customer advisory boards – also known as client advisory councils – provide an ideal opportunity for you and your business leaders to gather insights on a range of issues affecting the customer experience. It also gives you a chance to test new ideas, which can then guide the strategic direction of your organization. Another important consideration – board members often become your most powerful and profitable brand advocates.

We previously shared that customer advisory boards provide organizations with a unique opportunity to listen to the “voice-of-the-customer.” Now, we would like to offer five surefire tips for creating a successful customer advisory board program:

A clear objective is important.

Every effective meeting requires a well-thought out agenda. A customer advisory board meeting is no different. Board members want to know their time is well spent. If your primary objective is to align the company with the evolving needs and opportunities of the market, establish meeting goals and priorities accordingly.

You can also survey board members to gauge their interest on certain discussion topics and collect their input for the creation of your meeting agenda.

Plan meeting logistics accordingly.

An important but sometimes overlooked aspect for ensuring a successful customer advisory board meeting is the event planning process. For members to have a positive experience you must take into account the location of the event, travel accommodations for members, handouts with relevant or important information, and group activities for when the meeting is not in session.

For example, one of our clients took their customer advisory board members on a behind the scenes tour of Grand Central Station in New York. What a welcome reprieve after a long day of “strategizing!”

To make sure your event goes off without a hitch you should either appoint an internal team to lead the planning process or hire an outside firm to handle the details. Just remember, you’ve gathered your most influential customers in one location so please don’t drop the ball.

Invite the right customer contacts.

Who do we ask to join? This is one of the most critical determinants of success for your customer advisory board. The challenge here is you want both consistency and diversity. Consistency is important because your members should have similar titles. Feedback from a Manager can be quite different than feedback from a Vice President so the seniority of those in the room should be somewhat aligned.

Similarly, if the customers involved have vastly different needs, certain discussions may not be relevant to everyone.

Diversity is also valuable in that your advisory board members should represent your broader customer base, with a mix of verticals, geographies and customer tenures. This will ensure the input you receive will help inform decisions that benefit all significant customer segments.

Ask about what matters most.

Typically, customer advisory board meetings are one or two-day events filled with plenty of essential discussion topics. And while it’s important to remain flexible, it’s also easy to get distracted.

Keep discussions focused on the entire group, probe for clarification when appropriate, and avoid talking too much. You have invited your customers to share their feedback and the majority of the sessions should focus on eliciting actionable input. This is where customer advisory board facilitators, such as Satrix Solutions, can be a valuable resource for your organization.

We provide speaker coaching, help set ground rules, serve as an objective ear, and keep your meeting on track.

Share what has been accomplished.

Just like we advocate with our customer satisfaction surveys, closing the loop with customer advisory board members is vitally important.

Ongoing communication will keep your board members updated on your company’s progress with action items and how feedback is being used to influence positive change.

To learn more about how we can help you execute a successful customer advisory board, contact us today.