The pandemic, rising inflation, and the impending recession have had a direct impact on how Customer Advisory Board (CAB) programs are now run. In fact, among the many strategies employed by companies to navigate these uncertain times, the role of the CAB has become increasingly crucial. These four Customer Advisory Board best practices will ensure you design and deliver a best-in-class experience for both your executive team and your most important customers. This is how some of today’s most innovating B2B companies are paving the way for enhanced customer collaboration and strategic alignment.

Think programmatically

In 2020-2022, as physical distancing became the norm, the shift towards virtual interactions accelerated dramatically. CABs swiftly transitioned from day-long in-person meetings to a series of 90-minute virtual meetings scheduled over weeks or a few months. This transition not only made it easy for customers to participate without the need to travel, but also opened doors for global inclusivity and increased attendance. It also reduced cost. The most surprising outcome many executives discovered was that the value of the virtual series was actually on par with the value delivered by an in-person engagement. The same business outcome was achieved – to learn from customers, understand their priorities and needs, and ensure their value proposition remained relevant to customers and the evolving industry.

While you do lose the in-person aspect of a face-to-face meeting, companies gained a program that had multiple touchpoints instead of just the one in-person touchpoint. This allowed conversations to grow over time and deepened the connection between executives and customers.

As we plan for the next CAB season (Fall, 2023 at the time of this blog post), virtual engagements are now being included in the overall CAB program. As an example, many companies are planning for at least one 90-minute virtual meeting as well as one in-person meeting. In addition, companies are incorporating CAB member interviews and CAB “pod” discussions between meetings. In thinking programmatically and embracing in-person, virtual, and off-line interactions, companies have enjoyed higher CAB member attendance rates, broader geographic representation, and increased opportunities for sharing diverse perspectives.

Read: What is a hybrid CAB program?

Elevate Customer Empathy and Support

In times of crisis, CEOs and executive teams have realized the importance of deepening their understanding of customer challenges and needs. The pandemic has reinforced the value of fostering empathy and providing robust customer support.

While any good engineer or business manager will rely on sound analytics, product evaluations, and competitive comparisons, at the end of the day, all final purchase decisions are driven by emotion. And, emotion is heavily influenced by trust.

  • Do your customers trust you to deliver the business value your company promises?
  • Do your customers trust that you care about him or her as a customer?
  • Do your customers trust that you will help him or her succeed on a personal, as well as a professional, level?
  • Do your customers trust that purchasing your product or service won’t make him or her look bad?

These are questions all executive teams should wrestle with.

The implications of this premise are key. Because to deliver trust, you must first prove to them that you understand the problems they are trying to solve. And, you must be able to communicate that the reason your brand exists is to add value that will help your customers succeed. Without this understanding, your long-term success will be limited.

It may seem ironic, but your CAB is not about you. It’s about your customers and what you can do to help them succeed. By placing customer empathy at the forefront, CABs have strengthened relationships and built trust, leading to valuable long-term partnerships.

Read: Whoever understands the customer best wins!

Invest in Market Research

The last few years have been tough for businesses, and budgets have been cut. However, the need to maintain close contact with your best customers is more important now than ever before. Your CAB offers executives a unique form of executive-level market research. Through your CAB, you have a direct line to the voice-of-the-customer. And their needs and priorities are rapidly changing. For your company to survive, executives must be vigilant and maintain their fingers on the pulse of their most important customers.

CABs provide a sounding board for your team to test new ideas, innovations, and initiatives. And, CAB members will help you identify and avoid blind spots. Through your CAB, you will not only strengthen relationships, your foster a customer-drive culture within your company.

With this knowledge in hand, your company will be poised for accelerated growth when times get good again. This is the same pattern we found in the recessions of 2001, 2008, 2012, and now.

If budget doesn’t allow for an in-person CAB meeting, then embrace virtual meetings. Or, invest at least in interviewing top customers. Market research need not break the bank.

Read: 3 Ways to keep your CAB afloat when your budget gets cut


Harness the full potential of your CAB

As the business landscape continues to evolve, companies must proactively assess the effectiveness and health of their CAB program. If you’ve been running your CAB for a while, you know how easy it is to fall into a rut. To ensure the optimal performance of your CAB, we recommend engaging the CAB Health Check service offered by KickStart Alliance.

This service provides a 360-degree assessment so you can take your CAB to the next level with confidence. Discover how to create resilient Customer Advisory Boards that drive customer-centric innovation, foster strategic alignment, and fuel long-term success for both you and your customers.

For more information . . .

With a specialty in CAB & Partner Advisory Board programs, Mike Gospe is a professional facilitator with 20+ years of advisory board experience. He’s helped some of today’s most innovative companies deliver more than 250 world-class in-person & virtual customer meetings. He leads KickStart Alliance‘s Advisory Board practice.  Check out more of his Customer Advisory Board best practices articles and videos on his CAB Resource Center.

Contact Mike