Do you have a Customer Advisory Board (CAB) or customer advisory council? A lot of software companies do. It’s one of those boxes that you check because you know it’s a best practice.
But something else that’s common is when companies check the CAB box just to have one, but don’t end up doing much with it (likely because of the workload it takes to manage). Rather than becoming the product and customer experience-changing entity that it has the potential to be, many CABs go into hibernation, never to be heard from again.
It’s time to change that. It’s time to mobilize your CAB for action.
Why? Your CAB is key to unlocking benefits across departments, from customer support, product, your executive team, customer success, and customer marketing. (Yeah, this is why it’s such a “must” to have a CAB in the first place.) And it’s really of no use to you if you’re not using this tool effectively.
I’m here to give you that gentle nudge you needed to really get your CAB up and running. There are three main benefits a software company can get from a CAB.
1. Customer Advisory Boards Help Your Product Meet Customers’ Real Needs
A CAB is generally an assortment of hand-picked customers who are interested in giving you feedback about your product. They may share their perspective as a user of your software, or perhaps they’ll have more to say about the role your product plays at their organization.
Often, companies find these customers by monitoring who’s actively engaged and already problem-solving on their online community. But wherever you find these customers, their insight is extremely productive for your company. Real users of your product are giving you real, constructive feedback about the direction your product is headed and how it works now.
This is an excellent way to refine your product and make sure it’s meeting your customers’ real needs.
“You need to have a feedback loop from your customers in order to keep your product relevant to the marketplace, and the online community really helps us do that. Customers also want to engage with the product team. They want to know where the product is going, what they’re doing, and they want to have an impact. That’s their first desire.” Susan Reed, former Director of Customer Success, Fluxx (CMX)
Tip: Create year-round value by managing your Customer Advisory Board with an online community.
You hear a lot of advice that you can only make a CAB work if you are meeting in person, and the struggle tends to be keeping the value consistent between meetings. Yes, keeping up the value and meeting in person is essential, we agree. BUT…
If you can give the customers on your advisory board a way to easily exchange ideas online, you can achieve both these goals, and significantly increase the value you, and they, are getting from participation. They can connect all the time, on their own time, without you having to pay for flights every time the CAB needs to talk.
Plus? Your staff can listen in to all the conversations they have in the community, getting product feedback year-round instead of just a few times in person. Although your CAB isn’t necessarily a true sample across your customer base, these customers can give you a good read for how your customer base is feeling about you and your product. As your CAB members discuss in your online community, listen in and see their interactions.
Need help on learning how to implement customer feedback? See how Glossier does it.
2. Customer Advisory Boards Create Customer Advocates
Your CAB is your ticket to increasing upsell among your customer base, and not in the way you might be thinking. Your CAB should be utilized for introducing product discussions and presentations, not sales pitches or marketing upsells. (Use your online community for upsell and finding referrals instead.)
What you have is a natural opportunity to create customer advocates, so don’t take it for granted by failing to focus on building a valuable, mutually beneficial relationship with the members of your CAB. Customer Advisory Boards allow you to:
- Engage customers in an exciting, collaborative way
- Seek, listen, and implement your customers’ product feedback
- Introduce new products or updates to customers early on (allowing them time to explore features)
- Connect customers to their highly-involved peers + your staff to help them succeed
Your CAB members are already bought into the product by being part of the development process. So, when you release something new to all your customers, your CAB members already know why they like it and how to use it. This is instrumental to promoting the success of your product and even encouraging upsell among your broader customer base.
You’re mobilizing this small group of customers to go out there and sing your product’s praises (or bring essential feedback to your attention).
Trust us, your support team will thank you for this…
3. Customer Advisory Boards Lighten Your Support Team’s Load
Another big benefit is the reduced burden on your (likely swamped) support team. Again, if CAB members are getting early access to new releases and direct access to your staff, this means they are more experienced than the average customer when it comes to product knowledge, solutions, and updates.
This makes your CAB-members-turned-advocates the perfect candidates to jump in and offer solutions to problems that would otherwise be directed to your support team. Now, when other (potentially newer) customers are asking questions or bringing up issues with a product on your online customer community, your superstar advocates can bring their experience to the table.
Armed with knowledge, they’re able to effectively respond to community discussions and help other customers solve their problems before the customers submit tickets. This frees up time for your support team to address bigger issues, or simply link customers with questions to a discussion thread.
The best part? Advocates are often eager to respond to those support discussions in your online community because they’ve been there and they know how to help. It’s rewarding for everyone: Your support team, your CAB members, and your other customers.
Learn more about how you can deflect support cases with your online community.
Keep Your Product Relevant in the Marketplace with a Customer Advisory Board
Don’t let the opportunity to source valuable feedback from your customers slip by. Even though a CAB can be a lot of work, it could be totally worth it for your company. And the good news is that an online community can make management of the board a lot easier and provide you with loads more insight.
Elizabeth Bell is a Content Specialist at Higher Logic. She’s passionate about communities, tech, and communicating about both effectively. When she’s not writing, you’ll probably find her cooking, reading, gardening, or playing volleyball.
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