The Candid Voice in Retail Technology: Objective Insights, Pragmatic Advice

The Best Customer Advisory Board (CAB) Meeting Ever

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RSR has moderated many CAB meetings, and we believe that a moderated discussion yields the best result for both your company and your CAB members.

Why should you settle for anything less that the Best Customer Advisory Board (CAB) Meeting Ever?  You’ve worked hard to set the group up.  Let us help you achieve the best result!

The Dilemma: Your company has a presence in the Retail environment, and your solutions are delivering value to key customers. Now you seek to engage your best customers in the planning process, knowing that the more the product roadmap is aligned the real needs of retailers, the more effective your sales and marketing efforts will be. But when you conduct a customer advisory board (CAB) meeting, it quickly descends into a discussion about system bugs and version release challenges. 

You are not alone. How should the CAB meeting be organized so that your company gets the input you need to align to retailers’ business needs? To help you create the best Customer Advisory Board experience ever, we offer this advice:

  • Choose you members carefully. Membership in the CAB should not be a reward for past loyalty. You want members who are using your solutions to win in their competitive environments.  The best CAB members are often those customers that were the clearest in their selection criteria in the beginning of the relationship with your company, and who challenge you with new ideas. Look for members who maintain a both a strong business orientation and a good understanding of their technology environments. C-level, VP, and Director level leaders are often great CAB members.  Asking direct competitors to participate can be tricky; make sure that the CAB environment is “professional”, not “competitive”.
  • Answer the question, “What’s in it for my company?” Whether the CAB members explicitly or implicitly ask that question, it is on their minds.  For most retailers, the benefits of participating in the CAB are twofold: First, they get an early look at where your company is taking them with your portfolio of solutions. Secondly, retailers learn more from each other than from technology vendors. Participants get an opportunity to benchmark their companies against their peers. 
  • Socialize. At the risk of being accused of organizing a boondoggle, be sure that CAB participants have some time before the working meeting to socialize. Golf, sailing, catching a ballgame, touring a winery, etc. – those are all good opportunities.
  • Build a “respectful” agenda. Be sure to start the working meeting with a “top-to-top” discussion – not only is it respectful to the CAB members to bring your execs in to speak to them, but it also ensures that the discussion will be strategic.  After you have presented your strategic vision, be sure to present a “State of the Retail Industry” perspective from an external source (for example, RSR has been brought in on several CAB’s to make this kind of presentation). From there, share the solution roadmap and customer success stories with the CAB.
  • Put the CAB to work. In the second half of the day, ask your CAB to break into discussion groups that cover areas of interest (e.g. “supply chain automation”, or “employee digital enablement”, etc.). Make sure that your company ask a representative at each breakout table to listen and answer questions and present your company’s point of view. At the end of the discussion period, each group should have one of the participants to report to the entire CAB.
  • Prioritize The Recommendations. Once all the input from the discussion groups has been presented to the entire CAB, ask the group to vote on priorities.
  • Report back. You must promise CAB members that you will report back on each priority within an established timeframe.  Do not neglect this to-do!


Our final recommendation: Use an external moderator. Whether you use an RSR partner or another “outsider”, we believe a moderator can help ensure that the day is useful for everyone.  First, if you are not moderating, you can join the conversation!  Secondly, a good moderator will be unbiased and not afraid to ask a question to either you or the CAB members.  Third, an effective moderator will ensure that everyone gets heard, and just as importantly, make sure that the conversation stays on track. Finally, the moderator can keep track of the “parking lot” issues – those items that anyone in the discussion brings up that don’t get specifically addressed by the group (this list becomes part of your follow-up report to the group). 

If you’re interested in learning more about what RSR can do for you, please contact Linda Wolfe or visit our site to learn more.

Vendor Newsletters May 17, 2019