Customer Advisory Boards are not a perk!

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(Image credit: CYLM / Instagram)

A Customer Advisory Board is a valuable investment for DMO’s and their customers.

For DMO’s, it’s one of the most essential strategic tools they can leverage … as long as they create an open environment that encourages candid feedback and don’t see it as another opportunity to sell the destination.

Based on my experience, here are 7 suggestions to insure your next CAB meeting meets your DMO’s strategic objectives and creates a sustainable and successful council experience.

  1. Align your DMO Team

Does your team really “get” the DMO strategy? Are they aligned on the main objectives of the organization and would they give the same answers when asked “What are your three main strategic imperatives?”

  1. Identify the challenges and welcome candid feedback

What are your DMO’s main challenges? If you can create an environment where you are open and willing to identify any potential “elephants in the room”and receive candid input, it will empower your council to engage in a meaningful and honest dialogue.    It’s interesting to know what “other DMO’s” are doing, but do you want a “me too” strategy or is your vision to differentiate your destination and bring fresh ideas to the marketplace?

  1. Build a Strategic Council

Customers who bring you business … may not necessarily be the only ones you invite. A Customer Advisory Board is not a perk. It is not a “thank you for your business” event. Accordingly, the question to ask is, who will bring the greatest added value and challenge you in a positive way? Additionally, are you listening to those who don’t want to do business with you now. There is value in knowing why and adding those voices within the council.

  1. Reach out in advance

Set the tone for your Customer Advisory Board! Reach out personally to each participant in advance. Start the conversation, share your challenges and establish an open and honest dialogue from the outset. With an outside facilitator, your opportunity for success will increase significantly if they are “interviewing” the potential participants and encouraging your advisors to speak freely.

  1. Define the agenda

Our world is evolving at light speed. There is no need to send the agenda a month in advance. So much can happen in between. Rather confirm far in advance the schedule but provide the final agenda a few days before the meeting.This will give maximum flexibility to tailor the agenda to “real time issues” and/or challenges.

  1. Ensure “No sales speech” from your DMO Team

People will invest their time and share their personal opinion as long as they feel they are in an open and safe environment … and that you are not trying to wine and dine them to “sell them.”. The Customer Advisory Board is a time to build and/or strengthen relationships and to provide candid feedback. If it was different, it would be simple be referred to as another “Customer Event”!

  1. Allow enough time for discussions and for every Advisor to speak.

Two heads are better than one. Hence, make sure that everyone has an opportunity to share – regardless of their level of shyness! – and allow for a fluid conversation. As long as the discussion is valuable and not circular…be flexible with timing. However, stay firm with published start and end times. Your council will expect your meetings to begin and end on time.

A Customer Advisory Board provides the ideal setting to offer feedback, share ideas and grow customers into advocates through an engaging and fun experience.

As a facilitator or a participant, I always learn something or meet somebody new. As for me (and I think for many of your customers) that is time well invested!

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