While Customer Advisory Board programs have become commonplace, they are not for every company. There can be perfectly good reasons why a CAB is not appropriate for them. However, if you are not yet sure, these seven signs will help you assess your CAB readiness.
1) You have more than 50 paying customers.
If you have less than 50 customers you probably don’t have enough history with them or your product to know the right questions to ask.
2) Your industry is going through significant change (e.g. an economic downturn or recovery, influx of new regulations, entry of new technologies or competition), and your customers are rethinking their strategy because of these changes.
As Yogi Berra said, “The future ain’t what it used to be.” If you are selling a product or service that is not impacted by market fluctuations, then you may not need to conduct market research with your customers at this time. However, if you are, then investing in a CAB may be imperative to collect strategic and directional guidance from some of your best customers.
3) Your leadership team is genuinely interested in listening to customers and knowing what they think.
Some executives think they know everything they need to know to guide their company forward. If so, don’t invest in a CAB program. If you hold a CAB believing you are smarter than your customers, then your ego will get in the way. However, if you really want to know, and you are prepared to listen, you will be rewarded with customer insight you never expected. More than that, you will differentiate yourself from your competitors who are not listening to their customers.
4) You are willing to take action based on customer input and feedback.
Don’t research anything you are not willing to change. You will just be wasting everyone’s time. But, if you organization is ready and willing to listen to your customers, then you are organizationally mature enough for a CAB. It should be noted that you are under no obligation to take any action suggested by any customers. You are only commiting to listen. They know you have other factors to consider. Your only responsibility will be to update the customers at a later date to share with them how their guidance helped you make your decisions.
5) The entire executive staff is onboard and eager to support your CAB initiative.
Building and executing a world-class CAB program is a team sport. It requires cross-functional cooperation because your customers don’t see you as a collection of business units or departments. They see you as a single entity. The feedback and guidance they give you will likely impact multiple areas of your company (i.e. marketing, product management, engineering, customers support, and sales). Having your entire team engaged will make it easier to consider the input from the CAB.
6) You have questions we want to ask our customers.
If your leadership team is curious about your customers, their priorities, and how their businesses are evolving, then a CAB is a perfect opportunity to explore those topics together. The more you understand how your customers’ businesses are changing, the better prepared you will be to provide them with relevant and wanted services and products.
7) The timing of the CAB meeting fits well with regard to other strategic planning meeting and events in your calendar.
Timing is everything. Is your company at a place where you can take time to listen? If you are in the midst of an acquisition or launching a new product, now may not be a great time for a CAB meeting. Your CAB is not just another event to be checked off your list. It’s a strategic investment in time and money. Make sure you can give it the attention it deserves.