It’s a question raised earlier this year at the Channel Partners Expo & MSP Summit 2022. For a managed service provider (MSP), the answer is a customer advisory board (CAB).
Winning new business boils down to understanding and solving a specific pain point, but an MSP’s relationship with its customer should never be transactional. You’re helping to grow their business by enabling them with technology. This means keeping the lines of communications open so you have a finger on the pulse of the constant change within the organizations you serve. Not only does a CAB help you anticipate customer needs, it also helps you grow your business and stay on top of trends.
What Is a Customer Advisory Board?
A CAB brings together representatives from key customers with your leadership team to provide feedback and guidance on product and services offerings and their experiences working with you daily.
A CAB is not simply an opportunity for an MSP to occasionally pitch new services or conduct product demos or investor presentations. As the host company, MSPs need to deliver value to CAB participants. Customers should be the focus of a well-run CAB. The primary goal is for customers to articulate their needs and pain points while also learning from their peers about how they are using technology to achieve their business goals.
Typical activities of a CAB include regular calls, usually quarterly, to get customer feedback, answer questions, and provide product and service roadmap updates. You can also engage customers with targeted surveys and give a select group of customers opportunities with trial offers. Some interactions might be one-on-one so that you can learn from a specific customer about challenges and goals and apply that feedback to other client engagements.
Why MSPs Need a CAB
MSPs will see a lot of benefits from a CAB. It allows you to improve and expand your service offerings. By having a forum to better understand your customer and their operational challenges, you get additional insight into why they became a customer and how you fit into their world. Through a CAB, you’re likely to learn more about how service offerings impact customers, and how they’re being used with other vendor technologies and services. You’re able to identify gaps in the services you provide and uncover additional pain points you weren’t aware of when you initially onboarded the customer.
A CAB opens additional opportunities with your customers because they learn about services they didn’t initially know you had—since CAB participants were otherwise focused on addressing a pressing need. Being part of a CAB allows them to see the bigger picture and understand how your other services can help their business.
This interaction through a CAB can help you grow your business with existing customers. Not only is it an opportunity for them to adopt more services from you but to better consume the services they’re already using. Your CAB is an opportunity to educate customers on how to fully exploit different services. They can also learn from other customers about how to better leverage them. Increased adoption and consumption of services ultimately leads to more revenue, which is why taking the time to start and run a CAB has a clear return-on-investment.
Go Beyond Your Customer
The primary purpose of a CAB is to engage with customers, but you should consider expanding the circle to further facilitate knowledge exchange. In addition to your own customers and internal representatives, consider bringing in key vendors who are a part of your services portfolio, or occasionally bring in other outside experts who can talk about key technologies and trends.
The cross-pollination of ideas from a CAB generates real-world information that benefits both you and your customers. It will help you improve your services and support and direct your overall roadmap so that all your customers benefit. Most of all, it provides the insight you need to be a trusted partner.