“How do we let members go from our Client Advisory Council without harming existing customer relationships? We want to keep a level of continuity but also want new ideas coming out of the Client Advisory Council.”

We often hear that question about Customer Advisory Board member retirement or rotation.  Customer Advisory Board member retirement is a best practice we recommend as an overall part of an advisory council program management to gain maximum strategic value from your board and to refresh it with different perspectives.

Many advisory board members will self-select him or herself for advisory board rotation due to job or role changes or because the person is too busy and doesn’t have the time to fully participate. A member that is too busy will be relieved to hear about his or her retirement from your advisory board. Member rotation must be addressed and handled in a diplomatic way otherwise you risk losing the trust and relationship established out of the member’s participation in the Customer Advisory Board.

Implement these tips to continue to foster strong relationships with any advisory council members you will retire:

1. Establish membership tenure in a charter

  • Create a charter as the foundation of your Customer Advisory Board (CAB) and include specified member tenure.
  • Set the member tenure at 12 months, 18 months or 24 months – these are the ideal time periods we’ve experienced from managing over 200 CAB engagements.
  • Refer back to the charter document as you consider members for retirement and communicate to relevant internal key stakeholders about this topic.

2. Rank Customer Advisory Council members annually

  • Rank members’ overall contribution, participation and value once per year.
  • Consider several ranking criteria such as attendance at meetings, level of strategic feedback and even note other member feedback about each member (whether positive or negative).
  • Consider rotating out members who have completed multiple member tenures. In some cases, you may need to rotate out a member prior to tenure completion.

3. Create an alumni board

  • Create a charter and scope for the alumni board just like you would for your Customer Advisory Board, with an internal resource dedicated to its management.
  • Set up a communication cadence of conference calls and email updates.
  • Ask for member input and feedback on various topics relevant to your company.

4. Leverage CAB alumni for other customer engagement opportunities

  • Invite relevant alumni to speaking opportunities at corporate events or at future advisory board meeting.
  • Recognize the alumni members in company events and customer summits.  Host a special luncheon for alumni members.
  • Create thought leadership articles, blogs or whitepapers, using alumni members for source content and even attribution.

5. Provide a gift or honorarium as appreciation for the member’s participation.

  • Offer a high quality plaque or certificate in honor of the member’s participation in your board.
  • If you create an official alumni board, designate the member as an “Alumni Board Member” of your company in the plaque or certificate.
  • Offer an honorarium of up to $250 for a charity cause. Provide various alternative organizations for donating.

6. Communicate the member’s retirement via a senior executive or the executive sponsor

  • Call the member via phone to let the person know about the retirement. Ideally, the advisory board executive sponsor will make the call or the most senior person that has the closest relationship to your customer.
  • If you are sending a plaque, certificate or honorarium, send a follow up letter and package via snail mail.
  • Use email as a last resort (and preferably not at all!) to communicate the member rotation.

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