The Discovery Process.... Laying the Foundation for Customer Advisory Council Success

Last month, my youngest son went out of state to attend college. Like all parents, we worry. Although we want him to enjoy his college years, we worry about him adjusting to life away from home. We worry about his social activities, his study habits and grades. We hope and pray that we have given him the tools to achieve the happiness and success we so want for him. Fortunately, our worries are usually quite brief. We remind ourselves that he is smart and funny, has a good head on his shoulders, and usually makes pretty good decisions. He has a solid high school education, a strong faith and deep family ties. We've provided him with roots and wings. The foundation for success has been laid.

That's what the Discovery process of a Customer Advisory Council initiative is all about... laying the foundation for success. It includes four (4) key steps.

  1.   Research
  2.   Identify Members of the Planning Team and Key Stakeholders
  3.   Interview Key Stakeholders
  4.   Identify Priority Issues

During Step 1 we learn as much as possible about our client's industry, organization, and competitive market. We review industry reports, articles and case studies. We study annual reports, strategic plans, analyst reports, and marketing plans. Absorbing as much information as possible allows us to better understand our client's positioning and operating objectives.

Step 2 is the identification of members of the planning team and key stakeholders within our client's organization. Three (3) planning team members are identified.

  • The Executive Sponsor will be the highest level manager connected to the initiative and is typically the CEO or President of the organization. His/her involvement in the initiative illustrates it's importance and encourages the entire organization to support it.
  • The Champion is the "working executive" involved in the tactical planning and delivery of the initiative. He/she leads the agenda and other major activities related to the initiative.
  • The Program Manager is responsible for the management of ongoing activities and detail, and works closely with all stakeholders. He/she is ultimately involved in all aspects of the initiative.

An essential step in the Discovery process, the goal of Step 3, key stakeholder interviews, is a better understanding of our client's customer base, levels of service, and their relationships with top accounts. We ask about key challenges, top initiatives, and growth objectives. We ask what they need to be successful, how they plan to meet their objectives, and what they would most like to learn from their top strategic customers. For my newest client, we are conducting fifteen interviews. In addition to the President, we are interviewing the Chief Strategy, Marketing, Technology and Information Officers, as well as all market vertical and sales leaders.

The final step of the Discovery process is the identification of Priority Issues. Priority Issues are used to structure the initiative and define what the Customer Advisory Council will address over time. They are referred to when drafting the agenda and throughout the entire initiative to ensure that overall objectives are achieved.

So, whether it's root and wings for a college-bound freshman or a 4-Step Discovery process that identifies Priority Issues for a Customer Advisory Council, the results are the same... the foundation for success has been laid!

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