Customer Advisory Boards: Uncover “What You Know That Ain’t So”

Customer Advisory Boards are terrific tools to tap the rich source of customer insights.  But, getting that customer insight and really hearing and understanding it in the context it is intended—versus the context in which you may wish to hear it—is a challenge.

The Danger of Listening for What We Want to Hear

What do I mean by this? At a recent Board meeting, members spoke very clearly about a market need the sponsoring company should consider. The sponsoring company came away with the opinion that what they shared with the clients met that market need very effectively. While this may be a larger disconnect than others, it illustrates what can happen when we listen for what we want to hear.

As Mark Twain* said in the quote above, the purpose of the Board sessions is to find out what “we know that ain’t so” and what we don’t know. Here are three tips on how to listen more effectively in a Board meeting:

Three Tips for Listening in a Customer Advisory Board Meeting

  1. Ask, don’t answer. This is really challenging for all of us—often we provide the answer that we want to hear when we ask a question. Try to ask short, open-ended questions that allow the client to offer their views. Limiting yourself to a one word “Why,” or “How,” is a powerful way to elicit additional input.
  1. Don’t lead the witness. When asked in a rapid-fire series, even short, open-ended questions can inadvertently lead the discussion where we want it to go. Limit the number of questions you ask in a row, and let the client lead the way.
  1. Summarize what you heard and check back. Repeat the top three to five things that you heard at the end of each session. Then check back with the clients by asking, “What is missing from this summary? What is overstated?”

It isn’t easy to allow for free flowing discussion in a board meeting or to encourage clients to share their thinking on topics that you haven’t planned. But, in doing you may find that you learn some things that you thought were true that just “ain’t so.”

 

 

 

*Note: some experts attribute this quote to Mark Twain, others attribute it to Will Rogers…

Related Stories

What Does Your Hybrid Customer Advisory Board Meeting Look Like?

Posted on 09.13.2021 by in Customer Advisory Boards

It’s been nearly two years since most of us went all-virtual… all.the.time. As we push forward with customer advisory board meetings, one thing is clear — there is no definitive answer on what a potential hybrid meeting will entail.

Continue Reading »

Customer Advisory Board 101: What it is that I do

Posted on 08.23.2021 by in Customer Advisory Boards

Explaining to family and friends what my job entails around customer advisory board work is complicated. When people ask about what I do, I find myself using long-winded sentences that sometimes trail off into the sunset as I provide every  

Continue Reading »

A Strong Pipeline is the Key to Revitalizing Customer Advisory Board Membership

Posted on 07.29.2021 by in Customer Advisory Boards

Retirements and role changes in the C-suite can wreak havoc on Customer Advisory Board membership, taking it from robust and static to multiple open seats in the blink of an eye. While this might cause panic at first, it  

Continue Reading »

Customer Advisory Board Engagement: Strategies for Driving Action in between CAB Meetings

Posted on 07.8.2021 by in Customer Advisory Boards

Successful Customer Advisory Boards (CABs) feature a high level of member engagement during meetings – members offering perspectives and direct input into the topic areas presented. Keeping that momentum going in between meetings is imperative but can be challenging  

Continue Reading »


Customer Advisory Boards

Customer Advisory Boards are powerful engines of engagement, insight, and business transformation. Make the most of yours.

Meeting Facilitation: Virtual and In-Person Boards » Taking Your Customer Advisory Board Meetings Virtual »

Learn More »

Engagement Strategy

Like any good relationship, customer engagement is a long-term, reciprocal effort. When done well, meaningful engagement leads to better business results, faster.

Engage Your Customers to Help You Stop Pitching » Getting to a Customer Engagement Mindset »

Learn More »

Understanding the C-Suite

Building C-level programs that are meaningful and bring value to you as well as to your c-suite customers is challenging. Veiled sales pitches won’t win the day with this audience. Deliver what executives want: ideas, inspiration, innovation, influence.

Building a C-Suite Client Experience Strategy » Do you Know What Your Customers Value? »

Learn More »