Customer Advisory Boards: Delivering Client Value through Peer Relationships

In her recent post on CustomerThink, Peers: The Secret Sauce to Advisory Board Success, Roanne Neuwirth shares that

“The formula for a successful customer advisory board is simple, but can be challenging to achieve: it’s all about reciprocal value. You have to create as much value for members as you expect to get out of it yourselves as the sponsoring company.”

This perspective is absolutely spot on.

However, the focus is often on the value the sponsoring organization will receive, and less so on the peer relationships that are forged between members—which is something we see happen as the trust and connection evolves over time. In reflecting on the value that customer advisory boards bring to the members we speak to often, three benefits come to mind.

Extend their network of peer sounding boards.

Customer advisory boards provide unique and safe venues for CXOs to share with each other best practices and lessons learned. For example, a technology leader working to build an agile environment can gain specific advice and perspectives from peers on how they are doing it. Or they may be struggling with vendor issues and look to others who are familiar with their challenges for guidance on how they have tackled similar situations.

Open up a cross-industry perspective that they don’t always have.

Often executives get to know players within their own industry, but cross-industry Boards bring access to peers in very different environments, providing new viewpoints and sometimes even open up potential partnerships. Tom Greene, Chief Information & Business Services Officer for Colgate-Palmolive shared his views on serving on customer advisory boards in a CIO Insight post. Peer access was a key area of importance, “The insights I gain from these conversations, due to the varied backgrounds of the participants, is something I value immensely above and well beyond the goals of the board.”

Deepen engagement with existing partners.

A CIO Board member shared during a regular one-on-one interview we conduct with Board members that she had recently had a two hour telepresence session with a fellow Board member CIO, during which they exchanged ideas. She was quite enthusiastic about the value of the conversation, and the deeper connection that resulted. While they are both from a similar industry and their organizations are existing partners, the two members did not know one another prior to meeting at the Board session – it was the Board that brought them together.

So when considering the value that comes from Customer Advisory Boards, do not forget the benefits experienced by members connecting to each other. Customer Advisory Boards are a crucial tool to fostering true peer relationships and providing the foundation for senior executives to interact with one another – inside and outside the Boardroom.

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