With the Coronavirus pandemic burdening world economies, companies that have wanted to initiate a customer advisory board (CAB) program may be having second thoughts or even putting such plans on hold. While this seems a logical reaction to these turbulent times, we would advocate an opposing strategy – that now is, in fact, a great time to start a CAB initiative. Here are the top five reasons why:

1. Demonstrate leadership: With the alarming pandemic news coming out regularly, people are seeking guidance on how they should be responding and adapting, learning how others in their industries are coping, and connecting (and perhaps commiserating) with colleagues who are also suffering through the crisis. As such, the pandemic presents an ideal opportunity for your company to demonstrate proactive leadership by gathering executive colleagues and determining pragmatic solutions to current business inhibitors. Our clients are using their CABs to reach out to their clients to gauge how they are doing during the crisis, communicate how their products and services may be altered during various business reductions, and how host companies can better serve rapidly changing customer needs.

2. Take time to plan: We are sometimes approached by companies who desire to initiate their CAB program, but host their initial meeting a mere few weeks after getting started – here are some tips on what to stop doing before your first customer advisory board meeting. This often creates a rushed, inferior program in which crucial strategic planning steps are hurried, and a focus on logistical meeting details often takes priority. Thus, the current mandate limiting personal interactions and business travel creates an ideal (and all too rare) opportunity to invest the time necessary to establish and plan for a strong program: to determine program goals and create a robust CAB charter, to evaluate and prioritize customers to recruit to join the CAB, and engage them to uncover their top-of-mind challenges and issues they want to address with their fellow members in future engagements.

3. Utilize virtual technologies: With most professionals working remotely during the current crisis, nearly everyone is holding virtual meetings and becoming adept at the related online meeting platforms to keep their businesses moving forward. You can use these same technologies to host a strong virtual customer advisory board meeting with your CAB members. Many of our clients have simply moved planned in-person meetings online, or are already holding such meetings as part of their regular communications timelines. But you’ll want to properly prepare, plan for participant engagement and communicate outcomes to make such calls productive and informative for your CAB members.

4. Prepare for in-person meetings: At some point, the Coronavirus scare is going to end. While estimates as to exactly when tend to vary and are fluid, many believe that the warmer summer weather may accelerate this. That means we all may (should?) get back to business and in-person meetings by the fall of this year. And when the proverbial ‘all clear’ comes, there may be a rush for meeting space and hotel reservations. Why not get ahead of this rush and think about your fall meeting planning now? What city makes the most sense for your members? What are some engaging social activities and properties ideal to support them? There is certainly an abundance of availability and even reduced pricing available now that likely won’t be when things get back to normal.

5. Return to business: When we all return back to work, your business will (still) need input and guidance from your best customers on your business strategies and operations – which may have even changed as a result of the current pandemic. Again, as businesses feel an inevitable pressure to return to ‘normal’ operations as quickly as possible, your business can prepare for a new future through engaging your customers and making such changes or improvements, discovering innovative, previously unknown solutions or uncovering new business opportunities that can help your company not only return but flourish in the coming post-Coronavirus era.

While the current Coronavirus emergency is dominating the headlines and our attentions, business leaders would be wise to take a wider, longer-term perspective to the current emergency and remember that it is only temporary. Companies that act now to invest and prepare for the other side of the crisis will emerge not only ready but even well positioned to prosper afterward. For more tips and strategies for running virtual customer advisory boards, watch our webinar on demand.

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