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The essential guide to Quarterly
Business Reviews (QBR)

SPEAK TO CUSTOMER SUCCESS EXPERT

What is a QBR?

Once upon a time, there was a B2B SaaS company named StarB*. The company was steadily growing and the CSMs of StarB also interacted frequently with the customers who were also satisfied by the product. Everything was going as per the plan.
Then Annie*, Customer Success Manager after reading several blogs on QBRs, decided to actually do one! She was excited to see whether they are actually beneficial or is another hyped-up fancy thing to do.  

The results were completely shocking: 

  • * She learned about the perceived value of their product at the strategic level
  • * She got insights about the industry which were unknown previously
  • * Triggered cross-sells  
  • * Learned about the different business use cases of their product

Basically, everything changed. She figured out “Unknowns”. These “Unknowns” lead to the massive growth of the company in directions that the company earlier didn’t know even existed.

In QBR, when the CSM interacted with the Sponsor they realised that the company was solving a complementary problem instead of the main problem. Even better, the main problem is a much bigger problem that is faced by companies throughout the world while product company needs to make a few minor changes to solve it.  

Their customer’s company had more than 5 departments which had the same main problem but only one department was actually using their product. After making the minor changes, the product company was able to sell the same product to all of the departments and hence got a massive boost in revenue without increasing the CAC( Customer Acquisition Cost).

  • * They were solving Complementary Problem  
  • * Got to know what value is perceived by the customer- strategic level meet  
  • * Got to know about expansion strategy  
  • * Got investment opportunity  
  • * Found out had several use cases but were focussing on one use case as they didn’t ask only 
  • * What is the fundamental problem you are solving?
  • * Which are the most important features for the customers? 
  • * How big cross-sell and upsell can be? 

As the importance of customer success continues to increase in the B2B SaaS world, the responsibilities of customer success managers are also widening.

From reducing churn, increasing Lifetime Value (LTV) of customer base, proactively providing insights on feature adoption,  providing references, case studies, customer stories to sales and marketing to creating upsell opportunities, facilitating renewals,  the list goes on and on.  

Bonus tip:Roles and responsibilities of Customer Success Manager

To help make CSMs lives easier there are powerful customer success software like ChurnZero, CustomerSuccessBox, Gainsight,  Totango, etc. but one thing that customer success folks sometimes underestimate is the power of a Quarterly Business Review.  

Pro tip: The essential guide to choosing a Customer Success Platform


Quarterly Business Review

In B2B SaaS, everyone knows that QBRs need to be done, most of us even do it but very few do it the proper way.


Proper Way?
What is the proper way and does it even exist?
Of course, it does! Otherwise, why would I have written this guide? ��
Doing effective QBRs can not only bring financial benefits but also help you improve your product.
In the SaaS world, along with a mind blowing product you have to do several other things to get recurring revenue like:

  • *Make sure the customer is able to achieve their goals.
  • *Build a solid relationship with the customer.
  • *Constantly improving your product to solve more complementary problems of the user.
  • *Making sure that the product grows and becomes irreplaceable as the client grows.

This leads to mammoth pressure on the customer success team. Here is where business reviews come into the picture.
QBR is a weapon in the arsenal of the customer success team that can help make your product indispensable for your customer.  


Who is this guide for?

Quarterly Business Review is something which cannot be skipped in this day and age. This ebook is for everyone related to business reviews.  

From Customer Success Managers, Account Managers to Customer Success  Leaders, this guide will help you not only get you started with QBRs but also will help you make one by using the template.  

After reading the ebook, along with having knowledge of the different types of business reviews, advantages of business reviews, how to conduct QBRs you would actually be able to do effective business reviews in your company. 

Here we have used the terms Quarterly Business Review (QBR) and Business review interchangeably so don’t get confused by the names.  

Now let us get started!  

Are there any differences between a QBR and a Business review?  

Well QBR is a subset of business review. QBR is basically business reviews that are conducted quarterly.  

What are different types of QBRs

There are usually 3 ways in which the  different types of business reviews can be  segmented:

1. Based on the Customer Lifecycle stage

Here the business reviews are set as and when important tasks/milestones are completed. 

OBR: Onboarding Business Review

This is the first business review with the client and as the name suggests: is done after the customer has been onboarded. This is the first business review and everyone (executives, sponsor, CSM from the client-side and the account manager, executive, CSM  from your team) are introduced to each other.
OBRs are usually conducted when the onboarding process is long (more than a month).
Expectations, the process to be followed, and targets are set along with the next business review date is finalized.
Pro tip: Onboarding Framework

Pre/ Post Renewal Business Review

As the name suggests this business review is conducted either pre or post-renewal.
Renewal is a completely different ball game that usually requires a separate business review.
All the rough edges and major doubts of the customer are taken care of along with explaining to the customer how your software will work in tandem with their product to produce even beer results. Here the new problems to be solved along with future targets are set.

2. Based on the Frequency

These business reviews are conducted after a certain fixed me as per their names. 

Monthly/Quarterly/Annually Business Review

As the names suggest these business reviews are defined according to the frequency in which they have to be conducted.
Whether a customer needs a monthly, quarterly, or annual business review depends on the customer, the product, and also on the stage that the customer is in. Initially, till the customer gets used to the product or if a customer needs to achieve an important goal urgently, there might be monthly business reviews.
Once the customer gets settled and starts getting optimum results you might only need quarterly or annual business reviews.

3. Based on the People

In these business reviews, the presence of certain people is essential.

EBR: Executive Business Review

This is just like the usual QBRs except that the frequency is not fixed but is set as per the need.
Here the executives from both sides (ie- The sponsor from the customer side and the Account Manager from your side) need to be present.

The most important person here is the sponsor who needs to be present. In EBR the sponsor will get a high-level view of what is happening, what are the current roadblocks along with a bird’s eye view of the possible upcoming challenges.
As a Customer Success Manager, you will also get an idea of the ever-evolving customer success outcomes. At the end of the review, as per the expectations, the next date of the review is fixed.


Purpose of a QBR


Periodic reinforcement of value delivered  along with understanding the ever  evolving desired outcomes of customers.


In B2B SaaS, usually, the sponsor is different from the people who actually using the software. A sponsor spends thousands,  sometimes even hundreds of thousands, of dollars to buy the subscription of your software.

But is the company able to achieve the goals that were promised to them? If not, what are the roadblocks?

Business reviews help update everyone and bring them on the same page regarding the progress made along with discussing the future plans.

You also get to understand what other complementary problems the customer is trying to solve along with figuring out ways to solve as many of those problems as possible.

There are several other reasons which make business reviews critical for B2B SaaS companies which we are going to discuss later.

3 Quarterly Business Review Examples


Who and for whom should QBRs be made?

Usually, SaaS companies have different pricing plans and each plan has several customers.

Some customer’s ACV would be $10K while other’s would be $100K. So should you do business reviews with all customers? The ideal answer is yes but the practical answer is no.

Start by doing business reviews with the key customers.  

What do we mean by key customers here?

Customers in the top tier- Since these customers are paying the highest, they expect their major problems to be solved in the best way along with a great customer experience. Losing even a single customer can lead to a major drift in revenue. As these customers are the lifeline of the company so extra care must be taken so that they are achieving their goals without facing many difficulties. 

Customers who have the potential to move to the top tier- Sometimes big customers start from a low tier to understand and see whether what the sales team had promised them is actually true or not. If they feel that this product is good they can be one of your highest paying customers in a couple of years. To actually make that move, business reviews play an important role as not only they get insights on the business they also get to know how the product can solve several of their other problems.

These are the customers who will actually derive benefits from the business reviews.

If you try to do business reviews from the lower-paying customers, they won’t be serious about it and it would be a wastage of resources. As the customers move to higher levels, the business reviews will actually give them insights that even impact their bottom line.

Who should be invited for the QBRs?


Business reviews are NOT catch up meetngs or just another video call. There are certain people and things that make a business review effective.


The following table shows the important members who should be present during a QBR:

Your Side

Account Manager

Customer Success Manager

VP of Customer Success

Customer’s side

Champion/SPOC Single Point of Contact)

Sponsor

Admin

This is not an exhaustive list and more people can be added as per the requirements.

But who should present the QBR? 

This is a common question but sadly it doesn’t have a fixed answer. It depends on several factors like your company structure, the agenda of the business review etc.

Usually, the respective customer success manager prepares the PPT and report as the only s/he is aware of the nitty-gritty related to that specific customer.

The business review is presented by the CSM or account manager as per the objectives decided beforehand.

Generally, if the focus is on retention then the CSM presents the business review but if the focus is on upsell then the account manager drives the presentation.

Of course, the other stakeholders also give their inputs while preparing the business review so that no major point is missed.

Business Review FAQs

  • * Should every customer get a QBR?

Ideally No. You should only do QBRs with your key customers.  

Doing QBRs with customers having lower contract value will neither be fruitful nor will make economic sense. 

But if you are an early-stage startup that is just starting customer success practice, QBR with any customer is good as you will at least learn some insights. Something is better than nothing and as you get high-value customers by that time you would have greatly improved your QBR process. 

 

  • * Should QBRs be on-site or virtual?

On-site QBRs are much more effective and fruitful. Your bond with the customer and their team is stronger as you form a more personal connection. But not every customer pays you that much to make on-site visits economical.  

Wherever possible and required you should do on-site business reviews but for others, QBRs can be done via video conferencing. 

  • * What should be an ideal frequency of doing business reviews?

Business reviews are usually done every quarter as it is an ideal timeframe to show what results the customer has got using your product.  

But there is no hard and fast rule but ideally, it should be conducted as per the requirements. This doesn’t mean that you don’t have even a single business review in a year if everything is going well.  

Regular business reviews are critical to making the customer successful over a long period of time.

  • * When should the first QBR be conducted?

First QBR should be ideally done after the onboarding process is over. This is where you connect with all the stakeholders and product champions. Along with the progress, targets and date should be set for the next business review. 

  • * Time duration of QBR

Usually, business reviews are completed within 1-3 hours. The exact duration depends on the agenda of the business review. But don’t drag it unnecessarily. 


Why are Business Reviews Important?

Business reviews provide the perfect opportunity to build a relationship with stakeholders. In some cases, if you are not aware of the right stakeholders- it will help you get connected and understand the perceived value of the product/service you are providing.

Moreover, it also gives you the closest answers to critical questions like:

  • * Where are the customers on their Success plan?

As discussed earlier, everyone will get to know the exact progress the customer has made.

  • * Are they heading in the right direction with you?If the customers are getting consistent value from your product, you need to make sure that your product becomes more indispensable for them in the future. For that, the customer has to move in the right direction.
  • * What comes next?

Here you will learn about the customer’s future plans. This will give you an edge in preparing yourself and improving your product so  that you can help the customer achieve more goals in the future.

  • * Where could they use your product?

Understand what other problems the customer is facing. Somemes an existing feature in the customer’s current plan (which has  not been taught to them) can solve it. Other times maybe a new feature in the upgraded plan helps the customer tackle this  problem.

If yes, it might provide you an upselling opportunity in the future, so make sure you nurture it  Somemes customers also have specific feature requests. Here you need to make a note and share it with your product team so that  they can check the feasibility and hopefully give a timeline.

If you’re looking for a Customer Success  management software that can help you with upselling signals, probably CustomerSuccessBox can help you in this .

  • * Give you more context of their business and your service/product.

Business reviews also provides an opportunity to discuss how your product is going to shape up in the future along with the  direction your industry is progressing in. In every fruitful association, it is essential that both know the future plans of each other.

  • * How is the company doing overall?

The Customer Success department might be rocking but what is the position of the company? Is the company going as per the plan or have they hit some roadblocks? Depending on the customer’s answer, it helps you plan your future association better. For example, if the customer is going through financial turmoil, it is not a good time to push an upsell.

  • * What are the short-term and long-term priorities of the customer?

Learning about the priorities of the customer helps you set your priority for them too. Customer priorities can be divided into short-term and long-term priorities. Short-term priorities can be 3 months goals like configuring the customer success software and setting up the dashboard while long-term priorities can be annual goals like reducing churn. If the customer’s focus is on reducing churn rate, you shouldn’t be trying to reduce onboarding time for their customers.

  • * What’s happening in the industry?

Each industry is going through rapid changes with the advent of technology. Just staying up to date is not enough in this competitive world but to actually succeed you have to be ahead of the curve. This is where your existing customers operang in different segments can give you that extra leverage.

Business reviews give you an opportunity to know about the inside scoops of the various industries that your customers are operating which allows you to strategies in advance on how to make your product better for both the existing and future customers.

This will give you hints on where you can get more customers. If the industry is growing and your customer is among the market leaders, they can not only introduce you to other potential customers but also guide you to help you close the deal with them.

  • * Are the things stuck somewhere at the execution level?

The executive will need to know the ball is in whose court and who needs to provide a push so that the engine continues to accelerate and run smoothly.

After the business review, you will also be able to identify the owner of the various pending tasks and by when they would be completed.

Not only this; did you know that business reviews help you reduce churn and eventually even increase MRR.

It helps you to reduce churn by: 

  • * Increasing Touchpoints: With QBR, you get multiple touchpoints in the organization. So, if champion or power user leaves the organization, you get a fair chance to build a relationship with other stakeholders and if QBRs are done regularly, you would get such information beforehand. 
  • * Understanding the desired outcomes of the customers: Customer success goals are ever-evolving. QBR/EBR gives you an opportunity to understand what is the next challenge customer/their company overall is facing once they execute your primary solution. (In most cases, the customer buys your product to solve one problem and in due course of time, they also want to solve another problem. As a CSM, you should be aware of these and if it is solvable via your product or service, you should help them solve that; which might prove to be an upselling opportunity as well). 
  • * By Overcoming the limitation of the Product: Talking to customers about their future can also direct your product team in the right direction on “What to build next” which will be valuable to the customer. You should also share your current product roadmap so that customers are hooked.

Pro tip: 5 fail proof ways to reduce churn


Most companies understand the  business impact of the product they  buy but are not happy with the execution. Business Reviews help  you streamline the process & concentrate on – where is the  biggest blocker or where is the biggest impact.



What all should be included in a Business Review?

Past info

What was promised ?

Present info

What is delivered?

Current Roadbloacks

ROI communication

& Validation

Future work

What is the work planned with timelines?

Expected business impacts

Direction

Validtion

Discuss the

Product

roadmap

Proposal

Potential new business case

Investments required

Upsell

/Upgrade

Opportunity

Agreements/

Disagreements/

Comments

Miscellanous

benchmarking

Customer Success Industry News & updates

Business

Insights

Client Industry

News & Updates

Client Industry News & updates

Feedback

Committments

Investment

Approvals

Date for

Next review


What are the steps for delivering an effective QBR?

For all your high-value customers you must & should carry out the Business Reviews in a structured way. Below are a few general  guidelines on how a business review should be conducted:

Make it a part of every customer success journey

These business reviews are conducted after a certain fixed me as per their names.

  • * To make sure business reviews are conducted regularly it should be part of the schedules of both the customer success manager and the client. 
  • * The biggest challenge for delivering a business review is getting the right stakeholders in the room. Some or other stakeholder seems to be busy in another “important” work during this time.

Pro-tip: For all the new customers, you can block the calendar of stakeholders for QBR in the kick-off call itself.  Your regular customers should be more inclined to business reviews as with their previous experience they would  already be aware of its value proposition.

  • * If you have a good number of customers, then the biggest challenge is making it a part of the process in the customer  journey. Along with making the customer success team understand the value of business review, train them in the  process too.

An effective way to push the CSMs to conduct business reviews is to measure them on How many QBRs due this  month Vs number of QBRs Completed.


  • * Prepare a playbook so that you never miss setting up QBR every 3 months. 
  • * It starts when you are writing an invitation email to stakeholders. It should have a very structured agenda and a trailer of several great business insights (which customers might not be aware of) that you will share. Stakeholders should look forward to the meeting, accept the invitation & consider this meeting as a strategic meeting.

What are the steps for delivering an effective QBR?

For all your high-value customers you must & should carry out the Business Reviews in a structured way. Below are a few general  guidelines on how a business review should be conducted:

Make it a part of every customer success journey

These business reviews are conducted after a certain fixed me as per their names.

  • * To make sure business reviews are conducted regularly it should be part of the schedules of both the customer success manager and the client. 
  • * The biggest challenge for delivering a business review is getting the right stakeholders in the room. Some or other stakeholder seems to be busy in another “important” work during this time.

Pro-tip: For all the new customers, you can block the calendar of stakeholders for QBR in the kick-off call itself.  Your regular customers should be more inclined to business reviews as with their previous experience they would  already be aware of its value proposition.

  • * If you have a good number of customers, then the biggest challenge is making it a part of the process in the customer  journey. Along with making the customer success team understand the value of business review, train them in the  process too.

An effective way to push the CSMs to conduct business reviews is to measure them on How many QBRs due this  month Vs number of QBRs Completed.


  • * Prepare a playbook so that you never miss setting up QBR every 3 months. 
  • * It starts when you are writing an invitation email to stakeholders. It should have a very structured agenda and a trailer of several great business insights (which customers might not be aware of) that you will share. Stakeholders should look forward to the meeting, accept the invitation & consider this meeting as a strategic meeting.

Bonus Tip: How to conduct Quarterly Business Review remotely

Presentation and Reports for QBR

  • * To prepare for a meeting, a CSM needs to know about customers including stakeholders, power users, their designation, why did they purchase, perceived value, an important feature they use, past usage etc. 
  • * CSM should be aware of all the past activities including support tickets, any critical pending tickets so that if somebody mentions them, you should be in the position to respectfully decline that conversation and tell them what will be the next steps.
  • * Prepare insightful reports:

i) Prepare a report of business metrics along with their improvements & vice versa in the last 3 months. Even if the reports are available in your product, still show this in PPT, as there are high chances that executives may not have  seen it.

ii)Share some “Behind the scenes” reports that are not available in the product.

  • * Find out what were the top priories of the customer in the last 3 months, how many of them you have executed already. Study what could be the potential upsell, cross-sell, expansion opportunities 
  • * Be ready with the product roadmap slide & what value does that bring to their business. 
  • * Stakeholders are also very much interested to understand the benchmarking with other customers.  Benchmarking is an essential part of business reviews.

What exactly is Benchmarking?


According to Wikipedia:  

Benchmarking is the practice of comparing business processes and performance metrics to industry bests and best  practices from other companies.


Benchmarking helps the company know exactly where they stand compared to other companies in the same industry.  This is the data that customers crave for as it shows where all they need to put in their efforts.

Customers are also looking for a suggestion from your Customer Success team which may not be related to your product.  They would like to know your recommendations on how to improve their metrics.

  • * Prepare a set of questionnaire which will help you understand their business better. This will help you understand how they  operate & figure out potential upsell opportunities.

Though you may feel that you know everything about the company, you might have missed some crucial aspects which  would be captured in the questionnaire.

Pro tip: QBR template

Conducting a meeting

  • * Make sure all the stakeholders are attending the meeting from your side especially the Account Manager.  Prepare an insightful, data driven presentation that will actually add value. 
  • * If the experience of the customer is good with you and they are getting value out of your product then it is the right  time to ask for advocacy in the form of referrals, case studies, marketing interview etc. These things will help increase  your reputation in the market and eventually lead to getting more customers. 
  • * By the end of the business review make sure to finalise the date for the next QBR along with blocking the calendar for  the same. 
  • Show the trailer of new product features (product feature that they are not using) but don’t do demo during the  business review. Inform them of the benefits of the features and how it is going to make their lives easier. Schedule a  separate meeting for a detailed demo.

Work on the Action pointers of the Meeting

  • * Make sure you send a minutes of the meeting which clearly states what you discussed, what are the action items. 
  • * Prepare an internal to-do on what needs to be done & share the feedback & learnings with other teams (product, engineering, markeng etc). 
  • * Tasks cut for both sides (Partner and Customer) should be captured, owners and timelines assigned or at least  proposed.

Success Metrics for QBRs

Each business review has different goals that is usually pre decided before the QBR. Here are some of the success metrics that  can be used for measuring how effective the QBR was:

  • * Attendance – Out of all the people who had been invited by how many people actually attended the QBR. Make sure  you provide such hooks and schedule it in such a way that everyone who you have invited attends the QBR. 
  • * Roadblocks removed – Along with discussing the current roadblocks, how many solutions were you able to discuss  that will help remove those roadblocks. 
  • * Action points for this quarter – Have the activities and projects for this quarter been finalised? 
  • * Future goals – Understanding the future goals is crucial in order to build a better product and better serve the  customers. How open were they to share their future goals? 
  • * Goals setup for next QBR – Were the goals and date for the next QBR set?  
  • * Goals alignment – Just setting up goals is not enough. It is important to know that on a scale of 1 to 10, how aligned  are the customer’s goals with our goals?
  • * Resources – To achieve any great thing in a fixed time frame, you need the correct resources at your disposal. But you  will not always have access to all the resources that you demand due to other constraints. So what resources were  allocated in comparison to what resources had you demanded? You can add more success metrics as per the use cases and requirements.Bonus tip: Customer Success metrics to monitor

Common mistakes to avoid while doing a QBR

  • * Business reviews are a strategic meeting not a tactical one. Hence, don’t discuss support requests or other trivial stuff  which leads to wastage of time. 
  • * Don’t conduct a business review without an agenda. It will lead to a discussion of anything and everything under the sun. 
  • * Don’t keep extending the business review. Each business review should be time bound so that whatever the agenda is,  everything can be achieved. 
  • * Make sure that executives are present on both sides of the table (CSM and customer). Without the presence of executives  the business review will turn into a normal meeting.

For Customer Success Leaders: How to implement QBR as a strategy

It is the job of the customer success leaders to ingrain  business reviews in the customer success managers schedules. But first they  must be taught and convinced the importance of business reviews.

Here are a few steps that will help you bring in the culture of business reviews  in your organisation:

  • * Conduct training for CSMs on the importance of conducting QBR where you help your team-mates with the company  objectives of setting up QBR & setting up the right expectations .
  • * Help CSMs with the below Resources : 

i) Professional email templates for the invitation to stakeholders stating clear agendas .

ii) Professional-looking PowerPoint presentations with the right flow of information .

iii) A slide with the revised product roadmap .

iv) Infrastructure to get fetch analytics for respective customers. 

v) Create a Playbook for QBR to get clear visibility & know-how of all the customers .

vi) Drive first few QBRs yourself  

vii) Set up a meeting every 2-3 months to get feedback from the team & make changes in the process if required. 

It will take some tme before the whole team is actually convinced of the value of the QBRS as business reviews don’t show instant  results. But keep pushing the team in the right direction and soon you will see the exponential benefits of business reviews.

Conclusion

It is important to make adjustments after each  business review so that each time you get better results. As you start getting value from business review, not only will you be excited but customers too will be eagerly waiting for the business review as it provides them with a chance to collaborate, learn and grow the business together as a team

Start doing business reviews and take not only the  customer success team but the whole company to the moon.

Deliver world class customer success at Scale

SPEAK TO CUSTOMER SUCCESS EXPERT
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