Whether you’ve heard it called a Quarterly Business Review (QBR), an Executive Business Review (EBR) or a health check-in, scheduling a regular meeting with your clients is vital for maintaining a pulse on the health of your customer relationships.
Your customers shouldn’t feel as if you’ve forgotten about them once they’ve made a purchase. Instead, you need to ensure they’re extracting as much value from your product and your relationship as possible.
By listening to feedback and adjusting your delivery, you can extend the inbound philosophy beyond marketing and sales, creating successful customers and evangelists for your organization.
What is a QBR?
For a QBR, “You meet once per quarter to review the customer’s success plan and how far along they are towards meeting their goals and desired outcomes,” says Luke Owen, Principal Customer Success Specialist at SaaSWorks.
You want to ensure that you are progressing your engagements so your clients don’t feel stagnate or that your product isn’t providing ongoing value to their business. QBRs help you ensure your product or service delivery is fulfilling the promises made during the sales process.
Your services teams should work closely with sales to set proper expectations and ensure relevant information is gathered. In the end, this information will be the basis for the initial success plan the post-sale team reviews in the first QBR. Essentially, your sales team plants the seeds for your organization’s ongoing delivery by learning more about and documenting your potential customers’ goals.
From there, for deals that do close, these goals provide a target for your engagement. How can you help your customers meet their goals? How are your customers progressing towards their goals? These are some of the questions that QBRs seek to answer.
“Your first QBR is to check in on that success plan that was developed by the sales team. Are there any changes to it? Are there any points of contact that have changed? Are there new stakeholders?” Luke explains.
From there, subsequent meetings should provide a reflection on what was accomplished since the last QBR and outline what should be accomplished before the next one. At the end of each QBR, you should loosely schedule your next meeting, creating a rough timeline for your performance to be measured against.
How Do You Manage QBRs?
Generally speaking, customer success managers (CSMs) normally organize QBRs, but that’s not always the case. If your success team is more focused on product adoption and less on account management, your QBR might be organized from an account management role. This could include an account executive from the sales department or an implementation strategist.
Once you’ve identified who will run your QBR, the CSM or account manager can organize the meeting and pull in the right people internally and from the client side of the relationship.
While you are on the QBR, you should create the ongoing success plan, outlining the initiatives that you want to implement moving forward. To make your process as efficient as possible, you should document the plan at the same time.
“Ideally, you're filling out a form that creates an activity record in your CRM,” says Luke.
He explains that sometimes you can even create custom fields within that record to make your process as streamlined and consistent as possible.
"It's data entry, but it's data entry while you're talking to the client. It shouldn't be too heavy a lift. You should try to bake it into your process as one thing,” says Luke.
The goal is to make the data as accessible as possible.
“The other thing an account manager should do is make sure that these success plans are mineable throughout the organization,” says Luke.
Whatever your mechanism for capturing this information is, it should feed into your operations somehow so that internal stakeholders can search for trends across your customer base. At the very least, the success plans should be accessible by your entire team, so they can dig into them if necessary.
Once a QBR is complete, there are a number of steps you should take — most of which involve confirming the plan that you discussed in the meeting itself.
First, you need to ensure your customer has a copy of the document you produced during the meeting, outlining your ongoing success plan. Then, you should confirm that they’ve reviewed it. Finally, you should verify that they’ve approved and signed off on it.
Giving your clients time to review the success plan outside of your meeting allows them to better digest it and determine if they are completely on board. If they aren’t, you don’t want to push them into anything.
Letting your customers buy in gives them a sense of shared ownership of the plan. Without this, they will attribute any of the plan’s shortcomings directly to you.
Once the plan is agreed upon, don’t “set it and forget it.” You need to demonstrate a proactive commitment to your accounts. Your CSM or account manager should have monthly check-ins to see how the plan is progressing. These could coincide with milestones in your success plan (e.g. Have you implemented this aspect of the plan like we discussed?).
Depending on your process, these check-ins could be completed manually, by scheduling a reminder on your calendar and reaching out when you are alerted, or through automation, by programming your system to deliver a message after a set period.
Regular check-ins ensure you are abreast to any major changes with the account and inform how hands-on you should be moving forward.
Segmenting Your Customer Base into Tiers
The term Quarterly Business Review (QBR) largely stems from enterprise software terminology. Luke also outlined that another often-utilized term is a “health check-in.” With health check-ins, the rules are much looser. It doesn’t matter if it’s quarterly, monthly or even weekly. Essentially, these check-ins are the same as QBRs without placing a timestamp on meeting frequency. Meeting when necessary communicates to your customers that you’re willing to go out of your way to ensure they’re receiving value.
Health check-ins provide a logical compromise if running QBRs for all of your clients is either not achievable or is unnecessary. Of course, more frequent meetings can still be held in the context of QBRs. With the formalized QBRs occurring at three-month intervals over the course of the year, less-formalized check-ins can fill the periods in-between.
You should try to do QBRs with as many of your customers as possible. Because of their time-consuming nature, though, “it’s not always possible to do a QBR for every client unless they’re a tier-one account for your business, and you’ve set that expectation,” says Luke.
It’s wise to ask yourself questions like: What will keep your relationship with your client in good standing? Is it worth dedicating the resources internally? Were these interactions outlined in our contract?
Determining which accounts fall into each tier and your willingness to communicate with each tier will be vital. It should also directly inform how your sales team sells your offering since you want to set transparent expectations before a purchase is made. This further underscores the importance of alignment between your sales and services teams.
At the end of the day, you need to ensure that you’re prioritizing your top clients. If that means sacrificing QBRs with all customers in lieu of more effectively concentrating on your top accounts, that is a decision that may make sense.
You could segment your accounts based on a number of elements, including monthly recurring revenue or total lifetime value. What makes a customer valuable for your company probably can’t be relegated to a single characteristic, though. To truly capture the value of a customer (and consider their potential value for the future), tiering customers will likely involve developing a formula which factors in numerous metrics.
Additionally, maybe there is an intrinsic trigger that would qualify a customer for a QBR. Primarily, QBRs are thought of as proactive devices, but they could be leveraged in reactive situations to improve your relationship, like if a customer submits a low NPS score.
Overall, if your client has certain aspects that make them a priority and they want to meet with you, you should prioritize it. It doesn’t need to be on a quarterly basis if your engagement dictates that it should be more frequent.
How Do You Determine if Your QBRs Are Successful?
If you set up QBRs within your organization, you should outline metrics that will indicate whether they are successful or not. To do this, you should first ask yourself, “What is your main goal in running QBRs?”
Luke explains that one possible reason for leveraging QBRs could be for product expansion. For example, if your organization wants to improve the growth of enterprise customers in a particular aspect of your offering, you might use a “land and expand” goal. With a land and expand goal, you attempt to generate product upsells after an initial purchase. A potential metric to track here could be expansion revenue.
Or, your organization might be hoping to fuel activation, getting your customer base to use more of your solution (that they already pay for) so they realize its full potential. Here, it would be wise to set a goal around activation percentage.
Another example would be attempting to reduce churn in a particular segment. You might be able to attribute reduced churn to QBRs if after six months those who had them realized lower churn rates than those that hadn’t.
Overall, you may have multiple goals for running QBRs, but it’s important to track if they are actually making a difference.
Luke explains that a buyer’s intentions for making a purchase will generally change within three to six months.
Inevitably, there will be something that pops up with your accounts, and it might be an issue completely unrelated to your solution. A customer may have purchased your offering three months ago and suddenly a more pressing need arises.
If this is the case, you should consider whether your solution can help them with that particular project. If the reason they purchased your product is no longer a main focus, they could stop doing business with you altogether. They may not even realize you could assist in resolving the new issues on their plate.
Of course, without frequent communication, you wouldn’t even be aware of this issue, and you would have no way to adapt to your customer’s needs. QBRs build regular communication about your solution into your engagements with customers, ensuring you are alerted to these opportunities when they arise.
Guido is the Manager of Acquisition and Strategy at New Breed.