At some point, you’ll be blindsided by a customer who cancels their service out of the blue. If that hasn’t happened to you yet, it certainly will at some point.
What’s frustrating about these encounters is that they’re tough to explain. You aren’t sure why the customer canceled or what you could have done to prevent it.
Actually, the reasons are always the same. Either the customer didn’t receive enough value with the product to justify the cost OR they weren’t aware of the value they were receiving.
Both of those challenges can be mitigated by maintaining a healthy, regular relationship with the customer. Random check-in calls are ineffective for everyone, so you should distribute well-coordinated quarterly business reviews (QBRs). This creates a natural progression of interactions with the customer.
A QBR is a one-per-quarter meeting with the customer (over the phone is fine, but enterprise SaaS organizations with pricey customers may want to do this in person). It’s an opportunity for you and the customer to get on the same page, review what worked, what didn’t, and what everyone will do going forward to achieve the customer’s goals.
Some organizations simply call QBRs “executive reviews,” especially if they don’t deliver their presentations exactly every quarter. You don’t have to perform QBRs for every customer, just the ones you really want to keep. If you only have a handful of high paying customers, do QBRs for everyone. If you serve a list of low-touch customers, perform QBRs for your highest payers.
Quite simply, a QBR is a meeting and accompanying presentation asset (usually a PowerPoint document) with your contact at the customer’s organization and a decision maker. The decision maker should, ideally, be a C-level executive. Bring your own executive if it helps.
The actual structure of your review can be flexible. Don’t be afraid to take your customer’s individual needs into account. Nevertheless, your quarterly business review should be divided into two main sections:
Let’s talk about each section and what you should include.
Your presentation should start with a review of what happened after the last QBR. If you’re performing the customer’s first QBR, refer to what happened since the onboarding stage was completed. There are two steps to this part.
Your product might provide a ton of value for the customer, but it doesn’t matter if the customer isn’t aware of it. This is especially important if there are many people at your customer’s organization who use the product and might not be aware of its total value.
In many cases, the customer doesn’t realize how essential your product is to the business. They use your product every day, but it’s only a piece of what’s on their mind. Your product is certainly not the center of their world.
Your QBR should make them think “Wow, this is an important piece of my business. Changing to a new provider or not having this at all would be a giant hassle.”
During your QBR, review product usage, successes, and specific stories that highlight the product’s value. You have all of the necessary data available, so include it in your presentation along with relevant insights.
Let’s say you sell a sales CRM. You could show the number of new contacts, how they were qualified, and how quickly their sales team moved through the pipelines. You could compare that to estimated numbers of an organization without a CRM. (Bonus points if you have customer data from before they began using the tool so you can accurately say “This is what we’ve done for you.”)
Always use specific data wherever possible. Like I said, your product is not the most important part of your customer’s life, so they probably won’t know these things.
Review the goals you set at the last QBR. Your QBR should honestly and transparently evaluate whether the product and the customer success team met the previously set goals. Identify what worked, what didn’t, and how everyone performed.
If you met your goals, explain why. Why was the strategy so effective? How can those methods be used again to create more of the same results? Can the process be scaled?
If you didn’t meet your goals, you should also explain why. It’s not too damaging to underperform if you learned something. What lessons can you take away? How can the learning from the failure be used to create success in the future?
Once the customer is aware of the value and how well you achieved the previously set goals, it’s time to move the relationship forward.
Suggest specific goals for the next three months. These should be goals you can control, either through your product or the customer success team’s labor. Do not set goals that require significant involvement from the customer unless you’ve established a working relationship. You don’t want to fail to meet your goals because the customer didn’t meet their deliverables.
Furthermore, the goals should be measureable on your end. Do not rely on the customer’s information to show the success or failure of your goals. Their numbers might be inaccurate or misrepresented.
Even though you should recommend goals, accept the customer’s input. You should lead the relationship, but it should still be a partnership. If the customer says “Actually, that’s not our priority. What we really want is…” you should rejoice! That gives you a clear path to creating value.
It’s perfectly fine if your goals are the same as the previous QBR. If the goal for your social media scheduling tool is fan engagement, you might continue to set the same goal of “10% more Facebook activity” each quarter.
Finally, articulate who is responsible for each task or metric, as well as everyone’s action items.
It’s important that you attempt to achieve a solid understanding of the relationship at the end of the QBR, well after you’ve reinforced the product’s value, addressed the previous quarter’s goals, and set new goals for the next period.
At the end of your meeting, you want to know where you stand with the customer. Are they happy with the product? Are they dealing with any challenges? Have they been disappointed in any way?
Most importantly, you want to ask them if anything will prevent them renewing when that time comes. The point is to ask this question at every QBR so you can fix a problem before the customer is so upset/disappointed/frustrated/angry that they cancel their service. (I’ve talked a lot about being a proactive customer success manager.)
It might seem awkward at first, but ask that question flat out: “Is there anything that would stop you from renewing?” This should be asked by someone who is in charge of capturing renewals, usually in the account management team. It should not come from the customer success manager. You don’t want the customer think of the CSM as a sales agent.
Regardless of the customer’s response, this question will create a valuable opportunity for the customer to be honest with you after they’ve consumed a bunch of information. This is a much better time to ask a question like this, as opposed to a random check-in phone call that’s more likely to irritate the customer than stimulate a dialogue.
If their answer is positive, you’ll know what to repeat over the next quarter to keep their business. If their answer is negative, you’ll have time to fix the issue and deliver the results they expect. Though the later isn’t fun to hear, you’ll still have information you can use to control the relationship and keep the account.
A QBR sounds complicated, but they’re actually quite straightforward. You now know the two main components and the two subcomponents for each section. All you have to do is fill in the information for each client.
While each business is different, you can create a template for each customer so that the presentation document can be delegated to whichever resource is best at those things.