As we enter a new year, it's a good time to reflect on Customer Advisory Boards…
With the Covid19 pandemic continuing, many companies are not considering any in-person meetings in the near term future. However, customer advisory board (CAB) managers should not let the momentum they have created through their programs lag or (worse) go dark. Many benefits exist from keeping the conversation going.
Here are five ways to keep your CAB program momentum going during the current pandemic:
1. Hold virtual meetings: Even though you are not able to meet with your CAB members in-person, you should still be conducting well-planned virtual CAB meetings that contain goals and objectives, questions to be addressed, a member-driven agenda, and ample collaboration time. In doing so, you can learn and share the challenges your members are facing during the pandemic, and ways your company can help navigate and mitigate them. Furthermore, by proactively checking-in on and engaging with your members, your company takes an industry leadership position by providing solutions and alternatives that will guide them through to the other side of the pandemic – and establish you as a trusted resource afterward.
2. Track internal progress and coming initiatives: While you continue to engage with members externally, concurrently, you should do so with your CAB stakeholders and executive management teams internally as well. This would include tracking the status of your actions taken from your previous CAB meetings, and ensuring progress is being made and the relevant parties remain committed to completing them and reporting back progress to your members. In addition, consider the changes your company may be undertaking as a result of the pandemic, what the “new normal” may look like, and any other corporate developments and initiatives that may be in the planning stages for the coming year. What input and guidance do you need from your CAB members for these?
3. Continue work streams and subcommittees: Your previous CAB engagements may have created the need for member-driven outputs, work streams or subcommittees to follow-up on raised initiatives or published research. For example, perhaps your members face particular IT or physical security challenges due to the pandemic, which they are addressing in unique and innovative ways. A collection of these might make an excellent publication, video or webinar to share with all your customers, which will likely take some incremental engagement with your customers and production work on your end. Ensuring the completion, publication and promotion of this during the pandemic will ensure this valuable intelligence is captured and communicated, and positions your company as a leader in your industry.
4. Interview your members: In planning for your next CAB engagement, interviewing members individually is not only a great way to prioritize your agenda, but uncover previously unknown pain points and potential new topics. Doing so enables you to “check-in” on your customers and learn other challenges they may not be sharing with their account reps. Although one-on-one interviews are best, a fallback could be sending out a survey to prioritize or gather desired topics for your next meeting. In addition, any new members to your CAB program should be interviewed to get them involved and invested in your program from the get-go.
5. Plan your next meeting: While in-person meetings are on hold, you should have a robust communication plan for upcoming virtual meetings heading into next year. But at some point – hopefully soon! – the pandemic will end and there may be a race for meeting and hotel space. Why not get ahead of this rush and have your desired city, hotel, restaurants and social activities identified and approved by your management before the pandemic ends? In doing so, you’ll avoid the process of review and approval, and be in place to procure your first choices before facilities fill up again.
This will create a great foundation for 2021 and enable your CAB program to transition back into in-person meetings as soon as they are viable.