When launching a Customer Advisory Council significant thought and attention goes into recruiting members – what criteria to use, whom to invite, and ensuring the mix is on target. However, the same care is not always taken when putting together the internal team needed to launch and run the Council successfully. There are a number of critical roles that must be filled consistently if you are going to leverage the Council to drive change and impact in your company over time. Even if you are partnering with an outside firm to develop your strategy and then manage and facilitate the Council, you still need to ensure you have the right internal team in place to get the most out of that collaboration, and out of the Council’s advice and counsel.
The internal team should include these core roles and responsibilities, working hand in glove, to get the Council launched and staying the course. These roles are not by any means full-time – often these activities are included as part of broader marketing or client experience responsibilities, and frequently team members may wear a number of these hats. While the amount of time spent on these tasks will fluctuate based on the Council meeting cycle, it is imperative that someone is on point for each of these aspects so that nothing falls through the cracks.
- Executive Leader. The Executive Leader – typically the most senior executive leader in the company involved in the Council – chairs the Council meetings and provides commitment, leadership, and direction to the team on strategic issues and the agenda focus. They provide the vision and consistent mandate that is required to demonstrate the importance of the Council for the company and to the other internal senior leaders and ensure the company follows up on the advice received.
- Program Champion. The Program Champion provides the strong support, content knowledge, and tactical leadership required to drive the execution of an Advisory Council program. The Champion must have enough seniority and influence to command the respect of the senior executive team and make things happen on a day-to-day basis within the organization, starting with recruiting, and agenda development, through to meeting execution and planning the next steps. The more complex the organization is, the more important this role is in ensuring the right participation and buy-in to advance the program and pull through Council guidance.
- Program Manager. The Program Manager manages all of the required internal coordination and communication to support the Council meetings and follow-through on a daily basis. The importance of this role is often underestimated. It requires strong organizational knowledge and internal relationships across the company in addition to project and program management skills to ensure the high-quality experience Advisory Council members expect. Content knowledge relevant to the Council’s agenda is also helpful in this role.
- Administrative Coordinator. The executive nature of the Council membership and the high-level focus of the meetings requires an Administrative Coordinator. This individual is key to scheduling meetings with internal executives as well as the program team, delivering communications to the Council members, tracking and managing responses and requirements, and briefing the team on status and progress. This integral role is central to keeping things moving, don’t overlook the importance of this role!
- Event Logistics Coordinator. The final area to consider is the role of the Event Logistics Coordinator. Meetings with executive clients require an individual with high attention to detail around meeting logistics such as securing meeting facilities, accommodations, food and beverage, entertainment, and transportation. While Council meetings are not events, these elements will help set the tone of the discussion and will convey the importance of the Council to executive clients.
Again, these are the core roles and responsibilities, but all Customer Advisory Councils are different. You may find your program needs additional Administrative Coordinators or the Program Champion and the Program Manager may be one and the same person. Over the course of our work across many different Councils and Boards we have found that if you map the team to these core responsibilities and make sure all of the tasks are covered, the program will have a much higher chance of success.