For those of us in the Customer Success game, that really isn’t a question, let alone the question. The QBR (Quarterly Business Review) process is a practice as predictable as death and taxes.
Here’s how it goes: each quarter, customer success teams sit down (in person or virtually) with key customer stakeholders to ensure we understand their goals. Then, we show how effective we are at helping achieve those goals through whatever product or service we represent. We make shiny, impressive slides, we recap goals, we fall on our swords about issues, we boast about how much we’ve done, we proudly show off the upcoming product features. “We,” “we,” “we”…
A QBR provides an incredible opportunity to drive value, build loyalty, and ensure adoption, but far too often, it’s about “us”, not “them,” the customer. Despite all the best intentions, discussions often miss the mark because they are:
- Too self-serving
- Poorly timed
- Include the wrong target audience
I challenge Customer Success teams to be mindful of these pitfalls and to rethink your approach. To that end, here are my top 3 tips to ensure effective QBRs:
- Take the “Q” out of QBR: Quarterly meetings aren’t always the best cadence for these conversations.
Find the right cadence that best aligns with business cycles, priorities, and goals. Timing is everything, and having strategic conversations at the right time means finding essential opportunities for you and your customer.
Tip(s): Identify these key dates for your customers. Leverage your CRM or Customer Success Management platform to memorialize dates and generate action plans or playbooks to help you execute. Think about customer budget cycles, industry conferences your customers attend, SKOs (sales kickoffs), etc.
2. Prepare and be aware: align with your customer on their objectives, align internally on your goals, and make sure you research current company activity.
One sure way to misfire on a QBR is to talk about unimportant things. I have seen QBRs where the reaction has been, “That’s great, but what I really need to see/hear/understand is…”. Upfront legwork, both internally and with your client, ensure the messaging in your QBR is on point and resonates with your customer.
Tips(s): Have a QBR prep session with business stakeholders internally. Customer Success drives towards outcomes, so ensure there is agreement on those internal goals. Pre-game with your champion on the customer side and collaborate on what is vital for them to get out of the session. The pre-game meeting is also a great time to ensure the right stakeholders will be present (see #3 below). Also, always send a proposed agenda for the session to your customer along with a list of important attendees. Upfront consensus on topics helps to ensure your content is on point--it also gives your customer an indication of who is important to have in the room.
3. Have the right people in the room: If the right stakeholders can’t be present, don’t do it. QBRs take a ton of thought and preparation. If you can’t get the critical people to participate, it is not worth the effort.
Tip(s): If you can’t get engagement, that customer is a churn risk. CS Teams should flag a lack of engagement as a signal of an unhealthy customer and then shift focus to addressing the client's health. Well defined churn mitigation playbooks can help here.
So, to QBR, or not to QBR? My answer is firm: Yes.
Make it a smart, thoughtful, empathetic touchpoint that is mutually beneficial for you and your customer. The last thing you want to do is waste customers’ time by talking at them -- not with them -- for an hour with self-serving, non-problem solving, but really pretty slides.
This post was originally published on September 2, 2020. See the original blog post here
Melissa Hatter has been building and leading Customer Success and Account Management Teams for the past 20+ years. Based in NYC, she currently leads the Enterprise Customer Success Team at Stripe. Before Stripe, she held leadership roles in account management, customer success, and operations at large companies such as NBC and small and medium-tech start-ups. Prior roles include Head of Customer Success at Leaf, VP of Customer Success at Emissary, and Head of Customer Success and COO at Frankly Media (now Engine Media).
She also writes a little about motherhood and her musings about Customer Success--if you are interested, or can’t sleep (her words not ours), you can check out some of her articles here.