EMM Group

Case Study: How a Customer Advisory Council Can Improve Relationships and Provide Actionable Market Feedback


A global leader in the IT space annually hosts a 2.5 day advisory council for senior-level customers. This year, they had the following objectives:  

  • Improve personal relationships with the customer decision-makers and position the client as the ‘forward thinking partner of choice’
  • Gain insight into market trends and understand the client’s position in a complex, fast moving competitive environment
  • Gather candid feedback on futuristic concepts which the client is considering taking to market

The client has turned to EMM Group each year to help prepare for the session, facilitate the customer workshop to gather insights, and report back the final outcomes to client leadership.

EMM Group's Involvement: 
EMM Group used our vast experience in working in complex customer environments to: 

1) Prepare for the Workshop 

First, EMM Group created a pre-conference survey which:

  • Gathered feedback on major industry trends,
  • Disaggregated key economic and non-economic purchase drivers,
  • Solicited key competitive points of difference (and weakness), and 
  • Uncovered specific areas where our client could improve its offering and commercial approach.  
We then worked with the client to prepare four 'concepts' of potential future offerings that the client was considering. EMM Group standardized the format of the concepts (clear problem statement, benefits, technical aspects to support the benefits) and reviewed the concepts to ensure they had the right balance of technical and commercial 'reason to believe' information. 

2) Facilitate the Customer Breakout Sessions

The group of customers was divided into two and EMM Group conducted parallel customer breakout sessions.  In each session we systematically reviewed each concept with the customers, gathering their input on flip charts. 
  • What did they like about the concept?
  • How interested would they be in purchasing it?  
  • What additional information would they need?
  • How would they improve the concept? 

Our experienced facilitators balanced many dynamics in the sessions:  

  • The need for each decision-maker to feel heard and respected (and to not allow anyone to dominate the discussion),
  • The need to maintain confidentiality (so their individual responses / scores were not recorded)
  • The need to allow opposing viewpoints - and understand the basis for those differences (size of firm, strategy, relationship with our client, geographic location, individual's role, or some other variable) 

3) Facilitate a Combined "Round Table" Report Out with the Client team and Customers 

The following day, EMM Group prepared a report out of the aggregated concept responses from both customer groups, plus the findings of the pre-conference survey for review by the entire group of customers and client commercial teams.  

Our role was to present the information and facilitate a productive dialogue between the client team and the customers.  It was imperative to allow the client team to understand 'why' the customers provided the feedback they did, while still maintaining the anonymity of individual responses. 

The discussion regarding the pre-conference survey uncovered some unknown competitive dynamics and gaps in the client's approach, in addition to providing additional details on macro level industry trends.   

4) Wrap Up 

At the conclusion of the session, EMM Group captured several 'consensus' action points from the discussion. We then summarized the customer feedback of each of the four concept statements and the pre-conference survey in a final report with clear recommendations.  This report has been shared widely by the client to reinforce the findings.  


Since the Customer Advisory Council, the client has: 

  • Conducted 4-5 specific meetings with interested Advisory Council members to develop pilots for the most popular concept
  • Shifted internal resources to incorporate the Advisory Council's feedback on the launch of another concept
  • Re-focused the customer target for a third concept to another customer group based on the Advisory Council's comments 
  • Established a 'standard annual procedure' for sharing it's R&D roadmap with these key customers to enable additional co-creation opportunities 

Our client sponsor thanked EMM Group for designing and facilitating a productive session and added that "The Advisory Council met our objectives to not only improve our relationships with individual customers, but also to receive tangible feedback on concepts to help us prioritize internally.  It was powerful to have our commercial team members hear feedback directly from customers!" 

Interested in learning more? 

We hope you found this case study valuable! If you're interested in learning more about how EMM Group can help you build a customized Customer Advisory Council - or provide professional, unbiased facilitation - to meet your business needs, contact RalphCummins@emmgroup.net or Schedule a Consultation