Member Article

Can a Customer Advisory Board Lend the Insights Your Business Needs?

Many companies create great products and offer outstanding service. Fewer, however, invest consistently and methodically in listening to customer feedback with the goal of providing a seamless experience across all points of interaction. These are the companies that demonstrate customer obsession. They not only collect feedback through surveys but also draw on the insights of a customer advisory board.

A Customer Advisory Board (CAB) is a group of customers who meet regularly to share insights and candid feedback to a business about its products and services. An advisory board typically consists of high-level, forward-thinking executives at their organizations who provide in-depth insights on corporate strategies to address industry challenges.

Having set up advisory boards from scratch, I have witnessed tremendous benefits in running them and incorporating customers’ feedback to improve processes. From innovative insights to guidance on product roadmaps, from gathering market intelligence to increased brand loyalty, advisory board members have an authentic interest and a crucial stake in your company and its offerings. What’s even more valuable is that they represent a cross-section of industries and provide different perspectives on how a company’s products and solutions affect them. For instance, what works for a health care firm might work differently for a manufacturer. Such insights provide valuable information to the product and engineering teams to reexamine strategies.

Since an advisory board can have an impact on a company’s product strategy, creating and recruiting its members should be carefully thought out. Key considerations include: 1) a customer’s desire to be a member 2) his or her commitment to participate regularly in advisory board meetings 3) his or her willingness to share success stories and feedback at meetings and; 4) his or her adherence to rules and mandates of the advisory board. As the customer advisory board is a hand-picked and invitation-only affair, members are chosen based on what they can contribute, including expertise, new ideas/suggestions, diversity, thorough understanding of the charter and, most importantly, honesty.

Through this group forum, members benefit from hearing about each other’s experiences with the hosting company’s products, industry trends, and insights that can be helpful for them. They engage in meaningful discussions, that when executed well, can create bonding among members. Networking is an important member benefit, creating a sense of community that solidifies with every interaction. Due to the pandemic, boards that once met in person have likely been forced to temporarily switch to virtual – and might continue to run virtually for a while.

Every business running an advisory board needs to remember that it was created to listen to customers and not necessarily to sell them anything. Therefore, attendees from the hosting company side should be carefully considered. The goal is not to overwhelm the customers present but to ensure that the appropriate people who can affect change are represented.

Customers who actively participate in the advisory board meetings become the people to whom you can reach out for usability testing or to provide a reference. They tend to be willing to explore each stage of the company’s vision and are comfortable enough to provide unvarnished feedback. By helping to refine a company’s strategy and roadmap, advisory board members are more invested than ever in its future success.

It’s key to not only involve customer board members in agenda planning but continue the engagement after the meeting with frequent updates on progress.

Lastly, do not forget to ask their opinion about the meeting overall. They might share invigorating suggestions on making the next board meeting even more productive.

A customer advisory board offers numerous benefits if planned and executed well. These are not one-off initiatives but must be ongoing. If you’re giving your customers a seat at the table, make it worthwhile. Honoring their inputs and making it interactive creates opportunities for learning and enhances rapport to create enduring mutual value.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Lisa Bianco, SAP Procurement Solutions .

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