As customer success professionals, our primary focus is on fostering strong relationships with our customers and ensuring they derive maximum value from our products and services. While launching a product is a significant milestone, continually improving and enhancing it is equally crucial.

One powerful approach to achieve this is by leveraging Customer Advisory Boards (CABs) and customer feedback loops.

CABs provide a platform for open and honest dialogue with our customers, allowing us to gather invaluable insights and feedback. This feedback not only shapes the strategic direction of our products but also influences the overall trajectory of our organization. While feedback may sometimes be challenging to hear, embracing it with open arms is essential for our growth and success.

What are Customer Advisory Boards?

A Customer Advisory Board is a carefully curated group of existing customers who convene regularly to advise our company on various aspects, including product feedback, strategic direction, and industry trends. CABs offer customers a unique opportunity to share best practices, foster community building, and network with peers while deepening their relationships with our executives and product leaders.

CABs can take various forms, such as in-person events (onsite or offsite), online sessions, or a combination of both, catering to the preferences and convenience of our customers.

The strategic benefits of CABs for customer success

By leveraging CABs, customer success professionals can:

  1. Validate new company strategies and initiatives, ensuring alignment with customer needs and expectations.
  2. Gather feedback on rebranding, positioning, and messaging efforts, ensuring resonance with our target audience.
  3. Assess and enhance the overall customer experience, identifying areas for improvement and innovation.
  4. Influence product roadmaps by incorporating customer insights and requirements.
  5. Uncover future customer challenges and pain points, inspiring innovative solutions (e.g., remote work collaboration tools).

Furthermore, insights from CABs enable customer success teams to:

  • Develop market requirement documents that inform product roadmaps.
  • Craft compelling use cases, narratives, messaging, and case studies.
  • Identify and nurture customer advocates who can share success stories, provide references, and champion our products within their organizations.

Gaining Organizational Buy-In To establish a successful CAB program, it is crucial to start by defining the "why" – the underlying purpose and objectives. This clarity of purpose will guide the entire process and ensure alignment across the organization.

Questions to consider:

  • Are we looking to validate a new customer strategy before implementation?
  • Do we need to focus on building customer advocates to improve retention and confidence?
  • Have we faced challenges with past product launches due to a lack of customer insights?

Once the "why" is established, it becomes easier to identify the key stakeholders who should be involved. Depending on the primary objective, this may include senior leaders from product, marketing, customer experience, customer success, and customer advocacy teams.

Adopting the DACI Model

The DACI (Driver, Approver, Contributor, Informed) model can be an effective approach to defining clear roles and responsibilities for the stakeholders involved in the CAB program. This model ensures:

  • A single Driver who oversees the entire initiative.
  • An Approver, typically a senior and influential leader, who can make quick decisions without needing additional approvals.
  • Contributors who provide support in the form of content, customer outreach, speaker coordination, and other essential tasks.
  • Informed participants who stay up-to-date on the progress and outcomes of the CAB program.

The secrets to CAB success

To create a successful CAB program, consider the following key ingredients:

  1. A well-defined business strategy and plan for the CAB initiative.
  2. Clearly defined stakeholders, their roles, and responsibilities.
  3. A targeted audience and engagement plan for customer participation.
  4. A customer-led agenda that addresses their priorities and concerns.
  5. A detailed call sheet for the CAB event, ensuring a smooth and organized experience.
  6. A clear plan for capturing and sharing customer feedback post-event.
  7. A forward-thinking plan to maintain momentum and continue engaging with CAB customers after the event.

By embracing the power of Customer Advisory Boards and customer feedback loops, customer success teams can foster stronger relationships, drive product innovation, and ultimately deliver exceptional value to our customers.