Many years ago a client, a top five strategic consulting firm, asked if we had any tools to help get her arms around the customer advocate program she recently inherited. It just seemed there were so many pieces and parts and some stakeholders yelled more than others, and that’s how the program evolved before she arrived on the scene. It didn’t seem to have a master plan.

In the consulting world, the standard “tool” for sizing up a situation is a maturity model. It provides a benchmark for companies seeking continuous improvement. We got to work on building a maturity model for customer advocate programs. By identifying 11 discrete parts of a program (or a collection of processes, if “program” is too generous), we found a way to simplify the assessment of each area and avoid getting overwhelmed. Analysis paralysis is so common in our field.

For each of these areas there needed to be a scale so that the current situation could be pegged to a stage of evolution. A user would need a way to identify each program facet with one stage or another, so we described four progressively more sophisticated stages in detail for all 11 elements.

The result is a self-assessment tool that helps all stakeholders understand what’s working and what’s not. It also provides a path to evolving to higher levels of performance and acts as a touchstone used monthly, quarterly and annually so that the big picture isn’t lost in the dust of the day-to-day.

What this tool does best is professionalize (shows method and discipline) the program,  which is so important to executives being asked to bet on an unknown horse. Knowing there is a vision, and that the vision supports and aligns to the company’s growth goals―the most important of all― makes that bet a lot less risky, and in the hands of the right leader a sure thing. Read more about capturing and keeping C-Suite engagement.

The best thing about our maturity model is that it’s valuable for managers of existing programs, and to those tasked with putting a program in place. In both situations, it makes clear both the assets and liabilities of the current state and makes prioritizing next steps much easier.

When developing your plan, be sure to include both short and long-term goals. There will be many goals that will take time, and they’re worthy of accomplishing. However, short-term goals produce quick wins, and everyone likes to see progress.

In your quest to build a program that produces astounding results and has the highest visibility in your company, don’t forget to establish an advisory board for your program. This board is made up of the people who have the most to gain from your success (sales, marketing). Make this a team effort and see how much more engagement you garner and the results that come with it.


Click this link to download a PDF copy of our Maturity Model tool.