The Anatomy of an Unsuccessful Quarterly Business Review

August 31, 2016 James Scott

If you’ve been lucky enough to work in the wonderful world of Customer Success for more than a few weeks, you’ll already be familiar with the concept of a QBR.

A ‘Quarterly Business Review’, (sometimes known as an Executive Business Review because there’s no rule that says it has to happen quarterly) is basically a formal meeting with a customer in which you review how things are going, try to address any open issues and formulate a forward plan, complete with actions.

Sounds great, right?

I’ve been fortunate enough to lead Customer Success teams for the last 5 years and, more recently, have started sharing my experiences with other Customer Success leaders in my role as a strategy consultant. During this time I’ve noticed that one of the first initiatives a new Customer Success team will implement is a QBR strategy.

The logic makes lots of sense. A QBR is an official opportunity to carve out some much needed time to spend with those important customers that you know you’ve neglected in recent months. It’s an opportunity to get on the front foot (for once) and focus on the customer's specific needs;  to make them feel appreciated, and hopefully set the tone for a more proactive and collaborative working relationship than you’ve had up until now.

But, sadly, too often this isn’t what actually ends up happening. When I speak to the Customer Success Managers who are actually performing QBRs I hear time and time again that the meetings are failing to meet expectations - either for the CSM or for the customer. What started off with the best intentions has ended up becoming an additional burden on the overloaded CS team and, rather than deliver value, has ended up leaving customers frustrated.

So why does this happen?

When a customer receives an invitation to a QBR, they are usually enthusiastic. This is a welcome opportunity for them to get direct access to the people with the best knowledge of their account and the product they are using on a daily basis. They start compiling a list of questions they need answers to, problems they need solving, product enhancements they want to see realized. They can’t wait to make a few months worth of progress in a single meeting - what a great use of their precious time!

But for the Customer Success Manager, the goal of the QBR is usually something different. Common priorities include getting to know the customer better, building a stronger and more personal relationship and maybe even uncovering potential upsell opportunities. So for the CSM, the QBR is a more of a strategic meeting - one which will set the relationship and the customer up for long term success. Conversations like these are extremely valuable but all too rare which is why, for the CSM, a QBR is something to get excited about!

So, both participants, the customer and the CSM, are looking forward to the discussion. But when the meeting happens, their expectations are sadly misaligned and, as a consequence, neither party derives any meaningful value from the time spent together.

After all, a couple of hours is no way near enough time to get into the nitty-gritty of solving product questions, or troubleshooting support issues - so the customer is unlikely to come out of the meeting feeling much different to how they went in. And with the customer focused on getting the short-term relief of issue resolution, there is no headspace left for discussions about strategy - so the CSM comes out empty-handed too.

So we’re left with both parties feeling thoroughly disappointed, which often causes a negative impact on the overall relationship. Not quite what we had in mind!

Here’s the good news.

Done right, QBRs can be a great vehicle for delivering value and an incredibly powerful checkpoint during your customer’s overall journey to success. Done right, QBRs are a great opportunity to get smart people together in a room and formulate a plan on how to work together to achieve the business outcomes that your customer is striving for.

So, if you’re just about to start offering QBRs, or if your current QBR strategy is falling short of expectations, then please join me on September 7 at 1pm ET when I’ll be providing you with a simple but effective value-based framework which will ensure you nail your QBR strategy and exceed your customer’s expectations the next time you meet!

Upcoming Event

About the Author

James Scott

James Scott is Strategy Consultant with CSM Practice and loves nothing more than helping companies deliver extraordinary customer experiences. If you have a question about Customer Success strategy, feel free to send an email to info@csmpractice.com, reach out on LinkedIn or Facebook, or sign up for CSM Practice's newsletter.

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