A Customer Advisory Board is a great way to figure out what your customers’ needs are. That can help you serve them better, but it will also give you a better idea of what your prospects’ needs are.
It can be a challenge to start a Customer Advisory Board, though. Here’s how we’ve done it at TeamLogic IT; feel free to pull whatever seems useful to you from our experience.
I knew I wanted people from a variety of industries on my board. I wanted to include clients who had done business with us for nine years and clients who had done business with us for nine months. I also wanted to include customers whose companies had been around for different lengths of time. And I wanted a good mix of DISC styles, since everyone is wired a bit differently.
I ended up with eight customers who were able to give me that mix, and who were willing to commit to the board. I included my employees as well so they could hear our clients’ needs first-hand.
When I invited my clients to participate in this board, I talked to them about my goals for the Customer Advisory Board. I shared that my end goal was to improve what I provided them so that their businesses could be more successful.
We also talked about some of the ancillary benefits to them: better relationships with us, being able to share best practices with peers, networking opportunities with other board members, and the ability to keep abreast of industry trends.
Before we started any real discussion, we talked about how the group was going to work. These business leaders were going to talk about their financials, details of their business, and the way that problems with technology personally affected them.
The first time we met I had given each person an example of a technology problem that I knew they had that had hurt their business. I asked them to talk to the group about how that impacted them personally and in their business. What was their pain?
In our second meeting, we talked about some of the services we were planning on adding to our TeamLogic IT portfolio and asked how it would affect them, or if they were even services they wanted.
In the third meeting, we used another form of collaboration to account for everyone’s DISC style.
Some of the feedback we received was what we expected, but some of it wasn’t. Some of the new services we offered were welcomed, but others that we really thought would be helpful weren’t services that our clients had a need for.
We keep these meetings relatively short (about two hours) and we meet once a quarter. And we do bring in food for our board meetings!
So far, that time frame has worked well. However, we’ve discovered that we need to set our meeting dates farther in advance so more people are able to attend. We’re still learning the best practices for this board!
We meet in different locations, but all places that are within a twenty-minute drive for each member. We’ve also found that it’s helpful to meet in locations with AV equipment.
This is the part that will be most unique to your business. For us, we know that our industry moves very quickly, and that our customers were worried about whether or not they were staying current. We wanted to make sure that what we offered them met their needs, and we’ve found that our Customer Advisory Board allows us to plan and adapt to do just that.
If it would be helpful to have a more direct line of communication about your clients’ needs, a Customer Advisory Board could be a great tool for your business as well!