A New QBR

In a recent post, we made predictions about what’s next for Customer Success in 2016. One of our forecasts was that the traditional Quarterly Business Review (QBR) would fade out and be replaced by a more frequent, multimedia-heavy meeting. QBR capabilities are a cornerstone feature of the Strikedeck Customer Success platform, so we aren’t completely ruling out the QBR, but rather suggesting that it will evolve into a better format that will benefit both the customers and the Customer Success professional. Whether a new QBR emerges or not, there are certain steps that need to be taken before, during, and after the meeting. Here are the essential stages that you should prepare for before you decide to take on a QBR.

QBRs Today: A Structured Approach

Currently, QBRs are very simple in format. Every three months, the client and account manager convene to discuss goals from the previous quarter, assess relative success, and look to the future achievements to strive towards. The goal in each QBR is to have an honest conversation with your customers that allows both parties to share what worked, and collaborate on how to improve the processes that didn’t pan out. Since most relationships, business-related or otherwise, flourish through continuous, clear, candid, and courteous communication, it’s important to have practices in place that allow both parties to focus their energies via productive methodologies, without making the interaction too formal.

If you’re doing your job as a Customer Success Manager (CSM), it’s likely you speak with your client a few times a week, if not everyday. These interactions are normally for short-term concerns and questions, instead of long-term strategies. Therefore, preparation before a QBR is vital, and you should plan what you will say during the meeting, as well as formulate presentations that display your progress towards mutual goals. After the meeting, it’s important to follow up with the clients, and conclude any remaining issues before closing these discussions till the next session.

Preparation: Fortune Favors the Prepared Mind

In your weekly (or daily) chats with your clients, you discuss issues that range from immediate to overarching. Oftentimes, they’ll mention a goal, off the cuff, that you cannot address immediately, but you should make a note of it and address it at a later extended time, with a fleshed out plan of how to achieve it. That way, you can show that you proactively think about their account, even when they aren’t prompting you.

Before you meet with your customers, it is worthwhile to go over the goals and key figures from previous meetings. Show that you’ve registered their concerns, and remembered the issues that were important to them. There are four things that should happen at every QBR: you need to demonstrate the value your customer is getting from your product, review previous goals and assess whether you met them, establish new goals for the next quarter, and make sure your customers see you in a positive frame of reference. Before the QBR, it’s crucial to prepare the right collateral that makes your presentation a visual case in point.

Execution: Surprise and Delight the Customer

Structure is critical to a productive QBR; if you get too far off track, it can become hard to manage the flow and keep expectations in check. Come in with a clear timeline, plan, and presentation so you can showcase your progress. Metrics are a great way to present growth, without being too heavy for everyone to follow. If you can complement your metrics with the appropriate visuals, you can quickly demonstrate your product’s value and ROI. Don’t be afraid to touch on the aspirations that weren’t met, because it’s important to show your effort, even if they weren’t entirely successful.

The important thing to keep in mind during the QBR is to not bite off more than you can chew. If you agree to take on more goals than are feasible for your team, the likelihood at the next QBR is that you wouldn’t have been able to deliver on those key action items. There’s nothing worse than under delivering on basic expectations, so instead, identify a few achievable goals, and shoot for one or two extra action items to surprise and delight your customer.

Follow Up: Be Meticulous, But Don’t Be Shy

After the QBR, give the customer a day or two to ruminate on the meeting and then touch base with them to make sure they haven’t thought of anything of chief importance after the fact. You can reach out to them with a personal phone call, but a clear and detailed email with a brief outline of the plan moving forward can be more effective and time-conscious. This is also an ideal time to review the goals set for the next three months and talk about the product offerings that will help them achieve those goals. It can be a good time to broach the idea of a trial upgrade that can help achieve their new objectives.

If the QBR went well, it can also be the optimal time to ask for a customer success story, or a reference to their contacts or partners. Happy customers are the best recommendation for your business, so capitalize on the goodwill within the window of opportunity, before business goes back to usual. If key players like C-level executives attended the meeting, reach out to them to maintain the contact, and foster positive relations for potential partnerships in the future.

Bringing It All Together

In reality, the QBR isn’t going anywhere. It’s a pillarstone of business operations, but has room to evolve and grow to reflect the complexities of doing business in today’s markets. Three months is ample time to see whether new processes are effective, and allow you to demonstrate real growth potential. The traditional QBR may not die out entirely, but instead be complemented by monthly status-update meetings that allow everyone to check and reassess priorities if things have changed. By our estimation, the QBR is the meeting to rule them all, and still is the main player in the field.

What are your tips and tricks for effective QBRs?