What if… the voice of the customer is fraught with criticism?

Believe it or not, that’s exactly what you want to hear from your customers!  Otherwise, they wouldn’t still be your customers!

If your company is already doing everything perfectly, growing by leaps and bounds, and shareholders are reaping the benefits, you are living in a dream world!  

In the real world, the one in which we all live today, business leaders want answers. They want to know how to increase revenues, how to retain and grow their customer base, how to deliver value, and how to develop more and better products and services to grow their business. They want assurance that they’re doing the right things at the right times. They want to understand the market better. They want to know what makes their customers “tick” and how they can improve relationships with key decision makers.

This is precisely why my client developed their customer advisory board. They wanted answers and advisory boards are designed to provide business leaders with real answers they can count on. They are designed to tell you like it is…the good, the bad, and the ugly. They are not love fests, but you really don’t want them to be! How else are you going to find out the real truth and get real answers to tough questions?

Advisory boards are made up of your top customers (and perhaps a friendly skeptic or two) who already like what your organization does and respect you enough to be working with you! They realize that your best interests are theirs, and they want you to succeed. When you succeed by providing the products and services they need, they too will be successful! They “get it!”

At a recent advisory board meeting, my client’s customer shared how uncomfortable she felt to criticize her host, but once I explained that her host “wanted and needed to hear what she was saying,” she understood and didn’t feel so badly. Most of us don’t like to criticize people or organizations we like and respect, but that’s exactly what “advisors” are expected to do. Don’t get me wrong. They’re not expected to whine and complain just for the sake of complaining, but it is their duty and responsibility to say the difficult things, to point out the negatives, to offer constructive criticism, and then to offer solutions on how to fix them. It’s about customers identifying problems and finding solutions. After all, you can’t fix a problem you don’t know about and that you don’t fully understand!  

Most of us don’t like to hear criticism either! But when it is intended to help, is voiced in a positive light, is said by someone you know and trust, someone who already thinks highly of you, and someone who is committed to helping you improve, it doesn’t sting quite so much and you realize that it really is very valuable information!

In the real world you can’t run from criticism. It’s how you learn. It’s how you grow. So welcome it from your advisory board members and challenge them to help you improve. You’ll both reap the benefits; then the love fest can begin!

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