Customer Advisory Council
Having built a reputation for the work with Research Evangelization, and in the course of Front-Line Collaboration, you will find opportunity to engage with harder-to-access customers or users: people you can create mutually useful relationships with.
In industries with hard to reach decision makers or highly specialized work, access to participants can be an ongoing challenge.
Front-line partners who control these relationships may feel extreme ownership of their customers, unsure how additional contact might damage the relationship, with little apparent upside. Healthy research practices often make customers feel more heard and get more engaged; without any experience of this behavior, you must sell this work, or a vehicle that contains the work.
Consider how you can create a “special partnership” with a select set of your users which is beneficial to both them and your own organizational partners. Build a customer council that convenes on a regular basis, and will help support your learning efforts at any time. Set clear expectations about their involvement, time commitments, benefits, and level of influence on the product decisions. Benefits may include special attention, access, or input to the product development process. You can also work with these users to set clear expectations of their organization’s involvement with research efforts.
Customer / user councils create a high profile platform for communicating user needs. One or many cycles of a customer council (and the underlying research with their orgs), can be the spark you need for User Needs Inception. You can schedule customer councils meetings or sessions to fit Development Cycle Coupling. New access to customer organizations will allow you a new venue to conduct Exploratory Research.