For years, we’ve been drilling into you the importance of customers first—making sure they have all the information they need to do business with you, buy and use (and repair) your products, and to co-design your future products, processes, and strategies. We often take internal stakeholders—your colleagues—for granted, assuming they will know what is expected of them when meeting with customer groups. So this time, I want to reinforce how important it is to prepare your co-workers (and bosses) for any customer co-design or Customer Advisory Board session.
In the co-design and CAB sessions that we run for our clients, we have a specific set of rules for how employees (whether they are your top execs or your down-in-the-trenches workers) are to participate. For example, we specifically ask that no one from the hosting organization interrupt the customers during the group interview that we call the issues and vision discussion. Now, we can just tell them not to butt in, but that creates hard feelings (towards us) and, even worse, a lack of engagement during the session. When we fully prepare these internal stakeholders, we explain why we want them to remain silent (to let the customers determine the direction of the discussion and to let them build on each others’ comments and ideas), we offer them the opportunity to take notes while they are actively listening to the conversation, and we assure them that they will be given the opportunity to ask their top questions at the end of the customer discussion.