The Best Way to Help Your Customers Help You

In today’s unstable economy, it is customer loyalty that keeps so many businesses afloat.  But how can businesses attract and maintain these loyal customers with so much competition?  Probably the best way is through impeccable customer service, and to have the best customer service, you have to know what it is that your customers want. Creating a customer advisory council is the best way to get this information (and much more) from your customers.


Whether a company is just starting out or has been successful for generations, and whether they have a few employees or a few hundred, every company can afford to learn something from their customers.  All companies of all sizes should create advisory councils.  These councils are a great way to make your customers feel engaged and involved in the company so that they feel like they can contribute more than just revenue.  Customer advisory councils also provide a way for the business to learn from and build relationships with key customers.  These key customers are members of your advisory council not because they necessarily understand the market or the business model as your employees do, but because they offer a completely new and different perspective on the way your business operates.

This outsider’s perspective is an untapped resource that will bring new and innovative ideas to the company.  The idea is simply to assemble a group of your customers and create a council.  The council should meet at least a few times a year which when compared to most other clubs or groups that customers are involved in, is not too much of a time commitment.  The size of the council does not matter so any business, from the local pizzeria to the largest chain store, can benefit from this concept.

When you meet with your group, you might discuss any number of things, but there are a few key areas where your customers will help you most.  First, use your group to help you develop plans for the future.  You will be surprised when you see how much insight your customers have into how you should do business.  Most of the time, customers have given this some thought and will have a sense of what will work and not work for them in terms of your business’s operation.

In order for your customer advisory group to be successful, you must treat group members with respect and be open with them.  Share with the group how things are going for your business.  Ask for their ideas to help improve the business; here again, you may be surprised at what they can deliver.  Finally, share with the group any ideas that you have been contemplating and ask for the group’s feedback.  This feedback can help you avoid trying a new idea that customers completely reject, which would be a waste of resources for the business.  Similarly, you can pinpoint ideas that the group thinks will work best and try them first to avoid wasting time.

The customers in your advisory group will be part of the group for a reason.  They will feel that they have valuable ideas to share and they will want to work with you to improve your business.  Engaging your customers is one of the fastest roads to success, and these customers are out there, so why not find them and help them help you.

What are some other ways to engage your customers?  As a customer, would you like to share your ideas with businesses of which you are a patron?