October 27, 2020

4 Steps to Build an Internal Quarterly Business Review Process for Customer Success

4 Steps to Build an Internal Quarterly Business Review Process for Customer Success

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For sales organizations of all sizes, establishing “checks and balances” to ensure new business growth is incredibly beneficial for executive management. As your SaaS business grows, you’ll need to establish processes to ensure existing customer revenue and growth are achieved. To ensure existing customer revenue, establish Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs) with your customer success teams. This is a very common practice for new business teams focusing on new customer logos, but your customer success team can benefit just as much – if not more.

What is a  Quarterly Business Review (QBR)?

In a QBR, a company uses its past to guide future planning and forecasting. The process is simple and powerful. But the key is that the executive team must conduct it well and in a way that all cards are on the table, with no fear of honesty.

But first, what exactly is a QBR and how should existing business teams think about this practice? According to Steven Rosen, Executive Coach, “A quarterly business reviews consists of a formal review meeting between a front line manager and one of his/her sales representatives. It can also be a meeting with the next level where the regional or national sales manager meet with their front line sales. The purpose of such a meeting is to review the last quarter’s performance and to discuss plans for the next quarter.” In short, your customer success team can use QBRs as a strategic practice to review customer success over the past quarter with their managers, and use the time to strategize about how to renew customers and work through upcoming challenges and see opportunities in a new light. Our Customer Success Leaders Toolkit also provides insight into building and scaling high performing teams.

Before You Can Move Forward, You Must Look Back

Maybe you’ve been part of a team or company where quarters passed on, but nothing ever changed in the customer success process; nothing was reflected upon after a quarter ended. You were just told to “get that renewal”. Or, maybe you’ve been part of a sales team where quarterly reviews were like going in front of the judge. Even before the QBR started, you felt like you were walking into a punishment – you felt like a victim, regardless of whether or not you hit your customer renewal target or growth quota.

In reality, though, a QBR should be a collaborative time to understand from ALL angles what worked well, what tools were used or weren’t used, what went wrong during the quarter, and what will be different in future quarters. Check out our 5 steps for hosting a successful existing business QBR below:

5 Steps to Host a Successful QBR for Customer Success:

1. Make the Process Known, Easy & Efficient

If the customer success QBR process is difficult or confusing, you can be sure it will be dreaded by your customer success team. To ensure customer success QBRs are painless (and actually beneficial!), it’s important to have documented steps of what is needed from each individual participating – both for those leading the customer success QBR as well as those presenting. In addition, it’s important to have a dedicated resource on your sales operations team that can compile and analyze data from your CRM and Customer Relationship Platform, ensuring data is consistent across all reps and less of a burden for your team members. Here are a few things to consider when putting together a “QBR Expectations Document” to share with participants:

  • Who should attend and what are the respective roles? (leader, presenter, moderator, note taker, etc.)
  • What materials should be prepared beforehand? What reports should be pulled? What numbers/metrics should be known? (Ensure this focuses not only on the year past, but the year ahead)
  • What is the format of the Customer Success QBR and what tools will be used?
  • If a presentation is involved, should slides be created? Will a template be provided?
  • What is the agenda of the Customer Success QBR? How long should each topic be addressed? (We suggest no longer than 3 hours per QBR)

2. ALL Levels of the Customer Success Department Should Participate

From executives to customer success managers (CSMs), every individual focusing on retaining and growing customer relationships should be involved in the customer success QBR process. It’s important to structure these reviews from the top down, with the highest executive leading their direct reports through the process (Ex: CEO leading a QBR for the CRO or VP, Sales and VP, Customer Success leading a QBR for Regional Directors, and so on).

The goal of the Customer Success QBR is to review and keep the business on track. The goal of the manager should not be to “catch the CSM” or the manager, but rather facilitate their thinking for certain scenarios. It is important to set clear expectations of roles of both parties. CSMs and managers own their business plan and must demonstrate that they have a strong understanding of challenges and opportunities in their territory. The expectation should be that they they come prepared with a plan of action to address the challenges and the opportunities in their territory/business.

The expectation is that the CSM and the manager are fully aligned on the plan of action for the next quarter.

3. Stick to a Defined Process. Always.

Was last quarter your best ever in terms of customer growth, reduced churn, and happy customers? That’s great to hear, but rather than skip your Customer Success QBR, that’s even more reason to ensure the process lives on. For many SaaS companies that have a gangbuster quarter with incredible MRR and happy customers, it’s tempting to modify the process and skip important steps, because of other “more immediate needs”. But we caution you to never skip the process. Even after your best quarter or year ever, you should use the Customer Success QBR time to reflect on what made it so successful. What’s repeatable? How do we hire and train new employees to be successful? How can we grow faster in the coming year without sacrificing quality? No matter how tempting, never sacrifice the process. If you do, your team won’t take the Customer Success QBRs seriously in coming quarters, or they’ll see them as punishment for a lackluster quarter rather than a growth and improvement opportunity.

4. Apply Past Learning for Future Success

While it’s tempting to focus time on the known (the past quarter) for the majority of the Customer Success QBR, most of the value is in applying the learnings from the past quarter to the future quarter. Ensure that this is reflected in your “QBR Expectations Document” so team members know to come prepared not only with past metrics and key learnings, but thoughts on how to move into the next quarter with a solid plan. The QBR should have include these 2 outcomes:

  1. Review successes and misses from the prior quarter and what was learned
  2. Create a plan for the upcoming quarter

Throughout the entire Customer Success QBR process, you will encounter bumps in the road and unexpected conversations – some of which may be uncomfortable. The important thing to remember is to embrace a coaching mentality rather than barrage the CSM or manager with “why did you do that?” questions, you ask more guiding questions. Questions such as: Tell me more about that. What made you respond that way? What will you do differently next time? What can we all learn and do better in this situation next time?

Finally, be sure to document the Customer Success QBRs and implement necessary changes afterwards. If nothing changes after a QBR and new processes aren’t enforced, they are wasted effort – and your team will know it. Keep track of performance metrics each quarter, actions each plan to take, and be sure to review those several days and weeks after the quarter ends, rather than wait until the next QBR when it may be too late.

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