How Not to Run a Customer Advisory Group

Posted Thursday, August 15, 2013 in Customer Experience by Patricia Seybold

I am currently the member of a community advisory group put together by our local hospital management. The purpose of the group is to provide input into the “transition” from being a full-service hospital to being a walk-in urgent care center and physical and occupational therapy center. This group is a perfect example of how NOT to do a customer advisory group. Here are all the things they are doing wrong. Use this as a checklist to make sure you are not falling into the same traps:

CAB Don't's:

  1. Don't form an advisory group to provide advice AFTER you’ve already made up your mind on what service/product changes you’re making. Instead, form the group 12 months before you plan to introduce service and product changes.
  2. Don't invite only the people who support what you’re doing. Instead, include insightful critics, including people who have had bad experiences with your product/services.
  3. Don't outnumber the customers in the group with your executives, board members, and subject matter experts. Make sure that customers make up 2/3rds of the members and that your highest level execs are present at every meeting so they can hear first-hand, not only what customers are saying they need, but also gain a perspective on the contexts and moods in which customers typically find themselves when they interact with your products and services.
  4. Don't use customers’ valuable time showing them what YOU think and what YOU are working on. Instead, spend the time getting the customers to talk among themselves about what they need and why and how that would ideally look, feel, smell, and fit into their lives.
  5. Don't avoid talking about what customers care about the most, even if that’s not the service or product line you’re working on right now. Instead, gather as much information and context as you can about what’s really top of mind for these customers, and add to your team the people in your organization who can actually address those needs. Then move into co-design mode to try out ideas and prototypes with these customers.


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