Diana De Jesus
Quarterly Business Reviews Best Practices: Customer Success
Here’s a little secret…
It seems like a lot of people in Customer Success aren’t clear on what a Quarterly Business Review (QBR) is.
I mean, we kinda know what it is, but what should we talk about on these calls? How often should we have them, and hold on…
What’s an Executive Business Review (EBR)? Are they the same thing?
In this recap, I’m seeking answers! Irit Eizip, the CEO at CSM Practice, interviewed Chad Horenfeldt, the Director of Customer Success over at Kustomer, on this very topic.
We’re recapping “Customer Success QBRs (Quarterly Business Reviews) Best Practices | Chad Horenfeldt - Kustomer” from CSM Practice’s YouTube channel.
Chris Horenfeldt has been in the CS space for over 15 years. He started as a CSM and then quickly made his way up to leadership. He’s done many QBRs, has followed different formats, and throughout the years, he’s seen them evolve.
Irit Eizip is a true powerhouse; just this year, she was named Top 25 Customer Success Influencer (and has been a top CS strategist for years). CSM Practice is a Customer Success consulting firm that offers services like workshops and developing strategies.
The top three takeaways from this interview are:
What is a QBR?
What to include in a QBR?
How to decide the cadence of a QBR?
What is a QBR?
A quarterly business review is a call that happens between a CSM and a customer.
The term “QBR” has come under scrutiny recently since QBRs don’t necessarily have to follow a quarterly cadence. But since we're familiar with the concept of a QBR, we still use the term. The goal of a QBR is as follows:
Understand the desired business outcome (what is the customer trying to achieve?)
Analyze achieved against desired
Make recommendations based on their outcome and where the product has gone
Business reviews should be thought-provoking, challenging, and they should help bridge the gap between the customer and the service. If we don’t do that, we risk the customer moving away from our product/service if we can’t establish a connection; that’s what QBRs are for.
What to include in a QBR?
In the past, QBRs represented somewhat of a performance review where you’d give plenty of feedback, but now, there are different channels of providing that information.
For example, if they need to address product updates, you can now do that in-app. We need to keep in mind that customers won’t read every notification we send their way, but it certainly gives us a good opportunity to move away from having the conversation go off track.
At the beginning of the QBR, it’s essential to include an executive summary that should highlight what has been done and the value provided based on what the customer is trying to achieve. Then the CSM can highlight where the product is headed. This is then followed up by a discussion (the most crucial part of the call) where we learn directly from the customer. There will probably be a few points to follow up on and recommendations the CSM will share with the customer to wrap things up.
Ultimately, we want to understand what the customer wants, what they’re trying to achieve, and what they’re looking for. That can help us determine what to include in these business reviews.
Who needs to be on QBRs?
If we’re focusing on the goal and the value we can bring, who do we have to have in the room?
The answer: It depends.
It depends on your product and how large the client is. This is where Chad feels QBRs have changed. In the past, it was a one size fits all approach which doesn’t scale.
If it’s your largest client, you’ll probably have different types of reviews. You may have one that includes executives at the highest level, and then you may have one that deals with other aspects:
You’ll want to have the person directly involved in making the decision be on the call for those larger clients. From there, you can front-load all of the executive’s items, have summary and value points, and lastly, communicate this with customers. By doing this, you’re letting the decision-makers know, “Here's how you're performing and what to do next, and if you’re interested, you can stay on the call/meeting to learn what to do next” this may lead to a success plan which is the second component of a business review.
Whichever way you do this, you need to make sure that your product’s value is clear to the stakeholders.
How long does the QBR call typically take?
While most QBRs are done within an hour or two, for larger clients, QBRs can span over two days or multi-day sessions depending on the type and size of the business. Factors like going onsite and the prep that needs to happen ahead of time impact the length of the QBR. He’s seen companies give the CSM a QBR, which lays out the company's business plan. From there, the CSM needs to take that information and create their QBR based on the company’s business plan.
How to decide the cadence of a QBR?
Having tools in place that can alert a CSM on customer behavior can influence the cadence of a QBR. For example, if a CSM is notified that there is low adoption on an account, they can quickly jump into action and therefore don’t have to rely on a QBR to learn that there is a problem.
This doesn’t mean that you only schedule a QBR based on usage trends. It means that there are some situations where you don’t have visibility into usage data, and the only way to understand the usage is by having more frequent QBRs.
Many CS organizations usually decide the cadence based on customer segments, but it’s important to consider the customer’s perspective. Understanding what could be beneficial for them and what the right cadence is, in their opinion, also matter.
A few other things to consider are resources available. We *can* do more frequent QBRs, but how difficult is it to do them, and how much time does a CS team have based on other commitments?
Other options besides QBRs
In the past, business reviews were the only tool CSMS had in their tool kit. But there are so many other things that CSMs and CS organizations are doing for customers now instead of a QBR. For example, a client health check:
This call allows CS to identify what’s going on with the client, what are the things that can be done to help them improve, and then confirming these things with the client by asking them a series of questions.
Doing more Voice of Customer (VoC) initiatives to understand what they’re looking for and then engaging with them based on where they are on their journey can create other spaces outside of QBRs.
Irit wraps up the interview with two points she wants us to keep in mind:
Ensure that you offer additional ways to interact with you to better understand how the customer is doing and where you can offer value. Don’t just lean on the business review so that you don’t have to do it quarterly.
Create a cadence for your strategic customers and your high touch customers in a way that aligns with what they want their experience to be like (don’t force a QBR because you have it as part of your engagement model).
QBRs isn’t our only option, there are more opportunities to engage with customers
The discussion that happens between the CSM <> Customer is the most important part of the QBR
Front-loading your executive summary gives execs and decision-makers what they need at the start of the call –– they can leave after that if you want :)
Thanks to CSM Practice for hosting Chad on their channel! You can go follow them on LinkedIn. And if you want to hear more from Chad, you can also follow him on LinkedIn.