Recently I interviewed one of my clients, Gowri Shankar, Senior Manager, Corporate Marketing of HCL Technologies, about their Customer Advisory Council (CAC). Now in its second year, the HCL CAC has 30 members from their top customer base.
HCL Technologies is a leading global IT services company consisting of over 62,000 professionals of diverse nationalities, who operate from 26 countries. They focus on ‘transformational outsourcing,’ underlined by innovation and value creation, and offer an integrated portfolio of services including software-led IT solutions, remote infrastructure management, engineering and R&D services and BPO.
I have worked closely with Gowri on their CAC program for over a year now and was curious to know, from the perspective of a Program Manager, how he ensures their stakeholders stay involved, and what benefits they have seen since the Council’s inception in 2008. Following are highlights from our discussion:
Q: What are the top 2-3 reasons HCL decided to build a Customer Advisory Council program?
A: “I can share more than 2 or 3! Here are six reasons (and there are probably more) …”
1. Market Research gave us early warnings of shifts in customer needs and emerging technologies. We want to “stay in front” of those needs and understand what our customers’ expectations are of HCL.
2. Strategic Guidance to help us validate and craft our strategic initiatives, looking ahead so we can make better decisions, allocate resources more effectively and align to their business and the marketplace.
3. Innovation is a continuous process at HCL and we look to our CAC to provide feedback on our new IT Services developments.
4. Customer Loyalty from our CIO CAC members has been phenomenal. I think that is because we include them in the process; we depend on them for input and validation of our strategies. As a result, we see less customer attrition and churn.
5. Sales guidance from our Council members – they provide advice on how to approach and appeal to similar customers, and many of them have given us referrals.
6. Market Intelligence on competitors’ tactics and strategies. They let us know what’s working and what’s not working. Plus, they share with each other trends they are seeing in the market and discuss leading economic indicators.
Q: Can you describe the recurring benefits achieved through the HCL CAC and how you as the Program Manager maintain and enhance the initiative?
A: “First and foremost, we are fortunate to have an Executive Sponsor who is fully engaged, which is a critical component to long-term success. Additionally …”
- The compelling strategic intent of the Council and therefore, the importance to not just maintain it, but continually improve it.
- The tangible outcomes that have been achieved through the CAC such as increases in referrals, customer loyalty, and revenue, and overall the continuous and unfiltered perspective from market leaders.
Q. What is one problem you faced gaining internal support and how did you overcome it?
A. “Our organization is highly decentralized. It was a real challenge to demonstrate tangible evidence and benefits from the various stakeholders. We overcame that with the help of the CAC members. Their enthusiasm for, and confidence in the Council reinforced our internal leadership’s support and involvement.”
Q. What are the top 2-3 measurable results your company has gained from the Customer Advisory Council?
A. “We are very pleased and proud of the results we have achieved. Here are some of the most significant results of our program …”
1. Reference accounts increased 200%
2. CAC customer satisfaction increased 25%
3. 30% of our CAC members have agreed to participate in a Case Study
Q. Do you have any closing remarks?
A. “We highly value our CAC Program. Through continuous engagement with the Council, HCL has better internal team alignment; as an organization, we are better focused on what we need to work on. We’ve formed valuable strategic relationships and built a mutual trust between our CAC members and HCL; there is a real camaraderie among the group. The time we spend together is invaluable. There is lively dialogue, differing opinions, shared benefit and incredible insight gained for all participants.”