Customer Advisory Boards, also known as a CAB, can be an ideal way to engage some of your most valued customers in worthwhile, strategic discussions. That’s because the input elicited is helpful in guiding important decisions for your company – decisions that lead to stronger customer relationships and increased revenue.
But this is only true if the Customer Advisory Board meetings are planned properly and expertly facilitated.
How do you ensure the meeting and conversations are productive and useful, both for your company and your Customer Advisory Board members?
Candidly, this is where many companies struggle. The reason being is a Customer Advisory Board that doesn’t feel productive to your CAB members can result in declining participation, which will certainly hinder the success of your program over the long run.
Considering the significant investment (in time and money) you’ve made in planning, logistics, travel and entertainment, and more – there is certainly a lot at stake. This makes it more critical not to overlook the importance of the Customer Advisory Board meeting agenda.
Building an Effective Customer Advisory Board Agenda
When building your Customer Advisory Board meeting agenda, I recommend generating two outlines – one entirely for internal company use, and one your CAB members will see.
The internal version is more comprehensive and will include details such as:
- Who will moderate or facilitate each session (assuming you don’t bring in an expert facilitator)
- What you would like to specifically learn from each topic discussed
- Questions you will use to tee up the conversations
The internal agenda can also include other notes and reminders for your company representatives. This will ensure everyone is on the same page well before you get in the room.
The agenda your CAB members will see is much more succinct and includes times, session titles, and possibly a brief description of each topic. This will help your CAB members understand how the day will play out.
You might even consider sending this version of the agenda a week before your meeting, so your CAB members can start thinking about the topics and gather any information they may need to offer meaningful insight.
Customer Advisory Board Agenda Topics
Customer Advisory Board agenda topics can be identified in a variety of ways – but nearly all should meet the criteria of – “what’s in it for them?” In other words, your topics should focus on how your company can improve the customer experience, how you can offer more value, how you can evolve with the needs of the market, and more.
If large parts of your agenda focus on how your company can win more business, grow faster or message more effectively, you will lose your audience. It’s ok to have one topic that focuses on content that’s a bit more self-serving, but it should be a small part of your overall agenda.
Finally, include your CAB members in the agenda setting process. Call and ask them what they feel would be worthwhile to discuss or what is top-of-mind for them regarding the relationship. Or, send them on online survey asking for suggestions. Also, ask them about their priorities or goals over the next twelve months, as it could uncover topics that relate to your company’s value proposition going forward.
Tips to Keep the Customer Advisory Board Meeting on Track
Once Customer Advisory Board meeting topics are established, it’s time to develop the actual agenda. Based on our experience designing and managing Customer Advisory Board programs on behalf of our clients, we recommend your company:
1. Start each CAB meeting with introductions, rules of engagement, and your objectives.
Set expectations with strong and passionate statements that convey the importance of the meeting and that value to your company.
Also, be disciplined in how you facilitate this session. Give CAB members clear instructions and a specific time limit when introducing themselves. I think we’ve all been in meetings where people aren’t offered guidance beforehand and introductions can drag on well beyond the time allotted, forcing the facilitator to cut time from later sessions.
Finally, some people on your Board may be traveling from different time zone or tired from activities the night before. I recommend you consider fresh and interesting ways to kick things off in a way that elevates the energy of the room. Getting people to stand, showing a video, playing music, or “gamifying” the process can all work well in starting things off on a high note.
2. Review improvements your company has made based on customer feedback previously received.
After introductions, it’s time to share your progress. If this is your first CAB meeting, you can speak to positive changes you expect will resonate, based on customer survey data or other feedback endeavors your company engages in.If you’ve already had a CAB meeting, you should highlight the prominent themes from a prior meeting, and be transparent about the progress you’ve made addressing frustrations or concerns shared.
Note – this is the only part of the agenda during which your company representatives will do most of the talking.The rest of the meeting should center around eliciting feedback from your customers, while your company representatives practice “active listening.”
3. Keep your CAB meeting strategic – avoid getting too into the minutia.
Your CAB is intended to be strategic, not focused on the tactical elements of what you do or how it’s done. For example, if you have a software platform or application that is important to your customers, focus on your longer-term vision or roadmap for the product, not on specific features that may be missing. If CAB members get too far into the weeds, re-direct the conversation. Remember, this is not a user group or product counsel. Your senior level customer contacts will disengage if the discussion gets too focused on trivial details.
4. Include meaningful activities to keep CAB meetings engaging.
Try to include at least one activity in your agenda that involves a brainstorming session. In the past, we have split our client’s CAB members into three groups and asked them to create a wish list for the company’s offering.
Another idea is to ask members to allocate “money” you’ve given them to a list of service enhancements.Each team can then present their thoughts to the entire group and engage in discussions about the decisions they made. In addition to being an effective way to see how your customers think about your offering, it also serves to change things up a bit and can re-energize the meetings.
When to Bring in a Customer Advisory Board Meeting Facilitator
The person facilitating the meeting should be comfortable with the various methods of keeping things on track, on time, and on point. If the discussions get sidetracked, too in the weeds, or too negative, you will need someone who is skilled at correcting for these issues without alienating your customers.
Poor meeting facilitation can result in sessions running long, not eliciting feedback that is valuable, or – worst of all – frustrating your customers as they look back at the event as a waste of their valuable time.
Another alternative is to have Satrix Solutions design and manage your entire CAB program. We have extensive experience executing very successful CAB programs, including skilled facilitators who will ensure the meetings are well run.
Bottom line: don’t overlook the importance of bringing in an expert facilitator.
While there are quite a few other important considerations for setting your Customer Advisory Board meeting agenda, if you follow these recommendations, you will be well on your way to organizing a successful event.