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How to Conduct Effective Quarterly Business Reviews, QBRs

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    A recent study conducted by Staircase AI revealed a striking trend. Customers who have regular QBRs are twice as likely to renew their contracts. But not all QBRs are created equal. Customer expectations are evolving; CSMs must act as strategic advisors and partners and use data to show tangible results and ROI and provide value to their customers. This post explores how to run your QBRs more effectively. 

    First, what are Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs)?

    A QBR, an abbreviation for quarterly business review, is a meeting with a client or company leadership every three months. During this session, you review progress on past and ongoing projects while outlining goals for the upcoming quarter. Besides evaluating performance and progress, it helps keep customers engaged.

    Wondering why QBRs matter? 

    Well, they’re a big deal because a solid QBR showcases value. It highlights the results of the work completed, the strength of the relationship, and most importantly – the ROI your services or product has allowed your customer to achieve. These sessions also provide an opportunity to explore the customer’s future goals while providing them with insights and strategic guidance to achieve them.

    Why are QBRs Important for your CS Strategy?

    Our latest research indicates that conducting QBRs promptly and effectively doubles the likelihood of B2B customer renewals. Integrating data-driven and personalized QBRs into your customer retention management strategy is imperative to reduce churn and unlock new growth and expansion opportunities.

    QBRs play a crucial role in fostering deeper connections between CS teams and customers while advancing the company’s mission—however, their effectiveness hinges on the quality of the meeting. Traditional QBRs are often too self-serving for the Customer Success Manager and don’t provide enough guidance and value to their customers. Let’s take a look at some characteristics of a traditional QBR.

    The Anatomy of the Traditional QBR

    Traditional QBRs typically mean: 

    • Preparation in a vacuum – Traditional QBRs are prepared with little to no collaboration or communication with the customer.
    • Vendor-focused success metrics – Most meetings review vanity metrics like usage and support metrics related to the product or service but not necessarily to the customer’s more significant business goals.
    • The vendor does most of the talking – The traditional approach often has the vendor doing most of the talking and presenting rather than discussing ideas. 
    • Vendor-driven by potential commercial outcome – The old approach is mainly vendor-driven to create upselling or expansion opportunities. 

    Related: From One CSM to Another: 5 SaaS CS Pro Tips

    Top QBR Challenges in 2024

    There are some common challenges that we’re seeing for CS leaders, preventing them from driving better and more effective QBRs and getting them stuck in that traditional QBR loop. Here are some things we’ve heard:

    • “Getting the right people into the room.” 

    With the recession causing major tremors, peer-matching has become very challenging. Decision-makers who pulled the trigger initially have often moved on to their next venture or have been replaced. The average turnover for a CSM is around 15 months, while VP CSMs or CCOs average about a year in their roles.

    • “Our QBR templates are losing their shine.”

    While many organizations utilize default QBR templates, it’s essential to recognize that customers have diverse goals, needs, and requirements. With use cases multiplying rapidly, these default templates can quickly become outdated and lose their impact. 

    • “Who’s on top of the changes in our team?”

    The same holds for vendor CS teams. Internal changes within CS teams can also impact the success of a QBR. How often has your customer been shifted to a new manager on your side? Who’s bringing the new CSM up to speed? Customers generally don’t appreciate being repeatedly asked the same questions.

    • “We struggle with asking the tough questions.

    CSMs often need help obtaining the necessary background information and context due to a lack of confidence to ask tough questions. CSMs need to understand the changes in their customers’ business and with their key contacts. For example, they should ask if there have been layoffs in the company, how external forces have impacted their business, how they are doing on their revenue targets and goals, if there have been changes in their team or restructuring, etc. Without this knowledge, CSMs find themselves consistently in firefighting mode. 

    Related: Customer Success Strategy: Identifying the Blind Spots

    Top 5 QBR Best Practices for the Modern QBR

    Don’t be disheartened by the constraints and challenges of traditional QBRs. Believe it or not, you can adopt some best practices to turn them into game-changers. 

    1. Collaborate more with customer stakeholders 

    Refrain from preparing QBRs in isolation. The QBR is meant for the customer, and not involving them in the process is counterintuitive. Engage the champion or decision-maker. Learn how they gauge success and communicate using their language, supported by qualitative and quantitative examples.

    Pro tip: Try co-presenting your QBR with the champion or relevant stakeholder.

    1. Align success metrics with customer OKRs and KPIs

    Frame your successes in your customer’s language. Utilizing generic metrics, such as product usage KPIs accessible through any software tool, will not create any impact. Instead, focus on addressing more substantial concerns like retention and churn. Strive to position your customers as winners.

    Pro tip: Create a mutual action plan with realistic and achievable quarterly targets. 

    1. Listen to understand, not just to respond

    Encourage your customers to share more about their goals and desired outcomes in the QBR, but also ongoing, as these are subject to change. Amid the ongoing global economic recession, many external factors can impact the focus and priorities of their organization. Understanding your customer’s strategy is essential before tailoring your offerings for optimal results.

    Pro tip: Identify your customer’s pain points, as they can escalate rapidly.

    Related: Optimizing Customer Success Team Structures

    1. Become a team of strategic advisors

    Your customers are seeking long-term partners, not just random vendors. If not much has changed in the last quarter, infuse some thought leadership into the mix. Discuss industry trends, key insights, competitor insights, and optimization tactics. Today, you’re expected to be an industry expert, so act accordingly.

    Pro tip: Use industry benchmarks and data to create upselling and expansion opps.

    1. Enhance your customer intelligence with AI-powered tech 

    Communication channels are multiplying with millions of potential interactions with your customers. Many customers favor traditional emails, while others seek swift responses via Slack. Some prefer high-touch interactions, opting for Zoom calls. These form a goldmine of customer data – trends, signals, sentiment drops, and more. 

    But besides the risk of human error or bias, CSMs are now expected to do more with less, which means that manually feeling the pulse is impossible. Enter AI.

    Pro tip: Track customer sentiment and relationship changes to stop firing blanks.

    Summing Up

    Our recent research demonstrates that QBRs remain a powerful tool for fueling business growth. However, this can only be achieved by keeping up with the times. A significant mindset shift is necessary. You must look to become long-term strategic advisors armed with precise customer intelligence and insights to enhance traction.

    Also, what occurs between QBRs is crucial. Amidst numerous ongoing communications, real-time tracking of customer sentiment and relationship changes can position you for success. Once the challenge of managing customer data is overcome, you can take your engagement to the next level.

    Want to learn more about QBRs? Watch our webinar, “QBRs Aren’t Dead: Just The Traditional Ones Are.”

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