What is QBR and How Can You Get Customers Excited About It?

Samirah Tabassum
April 4, 2022
min read
September 19, 2023
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Not sure if QBR is still relevant? Here’s your soup to nuts guide to conducting successful QBR meetings.
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Like most new hires in the customer success space, you’re not entirely wrong if you also presume QBR (Quarterly Business Review) is related to evaluating your own business performance. Considering there are two types of it: one is Sales QBR and the other one is Customer Success QBR.

Disclaimer: Sales QBR is not the focus of this article. 

To help you grasp better, QBR is a meeting conducted to understand the desired business outcome of your customers, analyze their achievements against the desired expectations and make recommendations that bridge the gap between desire and results. 

It has major significance to the customer success team. Because QBR ensures staying on a consistent line of conversation with customers to understand their end goal and the value your product delivers in accomplishing them. 

Although the term indicates it as a recurring once-a-quarter meeting, however, that’s not the reality anymore. It doesn’t happen that often anymore. Sometimes  

customers prefer to go for EBR instead, which stands for Executive Business Review. 

It’s an annual meeting with the senior executives to discuss where the business is heading to achieve the objectives, plan, and meet expectations on getting promised value from your product.

There’s confusion in separating the purpose of these two terms because QBR and EBR are often used interchangeably. 

 In this article, we’ve touched upon everything you need to know before you conduct your first business review meeting. So let’s kick off with the meaty details on QBR: 

  • The Purpose of Conducting QBR/EBR
  • How to Conduct a QBR Even When Customers are Bailing on Them
  • How to Make QBRs from Bland to Brilliant (tips from expert)

What is the purpose of QBR/EBR (is it really needed)?

There are tons of debates on the usefulness of conducting QBR/EBR. Many consider it “dead” or absolutely redundant. The purpose behind having this quarterly meeting is to foster relationships with customers

Holding a QBR meeting is a good way to know how well they can bring value out of your product. When done right, QBRs can strengthen your company’s relationship with customers.

When should you conduct it? The only answer to this question is – it depends. The head of Customer Success at Kustomer, Chad Horenfeldt says:

“Conducting the business reviews depends on situations where you don’t have visibility usage data or you don’t have the necessary tools to monitor your clients on how well they are performing, if this is the case then you need to have frequent business reviews and to personally discuss their business and how you can support them. You don’t have to do this on a quarterly basis.”

When your company is in its early stage, it’s easier to interact with customers religiously, analyze their challenges and identify their chances of growth. Because you’ll have relatively fewer customers than larger companies. 

However, it’s not practically possible for any larger company to sustain such relationships with top customers or users, say 1000 customers. 

QBR meetings are meant to be done with the most strategic customers of your customers, not with each and every customer.  One of the common QBR mistakes is to treat every customer equally. 

You need to have a strong segmentation strategy based on their buying journey to differentiate them. So it’s wise to save the QBRs for top-tier customers only. 

How to conduct a successful QBR (especially when the executives are bailing on them)

Picture this. You’ve been persistently trying and managing to get an executive from your customer’s company on a QBR meeting. And what you hear from them is — “Sorry, my calendar is tight. Or, I don’t think you need me in this meeting.”

The reason is clear: your customers don’t have the availability for this meeting. And that’s practical. According to Statista, “companies worldwide are using an average number of 110 SaaS (software as a service) applications. And the number has been increasing since 2015.”

Source: Statista

Since the number of people using other software is increasing, the chance to get a yes for a QBR meeting is minuscule. That’s why Chad recommends taking a strategic approach instead of a tactical one. Many customer success managers make a common mistake: they put the spotlight on them, not on the customer.

A QBR is successfully executed when customers do all the talking since the whole purpose is for them. So you should ditch the robotic approach to sow the relation of trust you can nurture in the future. 

Here’s the thing. QBR doesn’t necessarily have to be a 1:1 meeting with customers. Part of the reality is customer success managers don’t even have the time to sit down with each customer to give feedback and discuss the issues with using your product. 

However, in today's time, the QBR meeting is more focused on delving deep into your customers' future strategies and how you can bridge the gap and assist them in achieving their desired outcome using your product.

You need three agendas to conduct a successful QBR:

  • Be clear on the end goal of your customers
  • Compare the gaps between achieved goals and future goals
  • Provide suggestions accordingly

Your agenda will work as a guideline in determining what to include in QBR. It's wise to make sure there's no existence of redundancy that prolongs the meeting. Because no one wants to spend hours on something that is not relevant and doesn't incite their interest.

To add a new perspective, Russ Drury, Senior Director, Solutions and Success at Zeplin, says – "QBRs almost become redundant when the customer develops their own expertise in your product. The focus of your interactions with the customer should be more about helping to achieve their self-sufficiency and self-mastery."

Another important fact to note. When a customer spends thousands of dollars on a product, it's desirable for them to have a regular cadence of meetings because the stakes are higher and they're more eager to get the most out of the product.

On the other hand, they might not incite interest in the meeting when they spend on a lower ARR value product. So it's clever to ensure you're focusing on the right customers to have a meeting with.

To simplify the QBR process, Chad suggests exporting the QBR data in a professionally designed template, having them reviewed by the CSM, adding in personalized customer information, and sending the pdf to the smaller customers.

3 principles to make QBRs from bland to brilliant

More often than not, QBRs are screwed-up big time by staying more focused on the operational matter, problems, and feedback. You don’t want to make this meeting dissolve into a problem-solving session. Because your costumers might find it dreary as well.

One fail-proof way to make QBRs brilliant is by keeping your strategy meeting separate from your tactical meetings. 

TK Kader, Founder of Unstoppable and GTM advisor to high-growth SaaS CEOs shares three spot-on principles to transform boring QBRs into brilliant ones.

1. Show them the actions taken and ROI delivered 

Truth be told. No executive wants to come out of a meeting being handed a to-do list. They already have a lot on their plate. If you want to hold their attention from the very beginning of the QBR meeting, show them the actions you’ve taken to deliver the desired ROI. 

That, without any fail, will incite their interest. Here’s the thing. Your customers will be more interested to see the transformation they received after using your service apart from anything.

2. Introduce the “X” score

When presenting your customers’ data, be sure to add scores that depict and evaluate their performance level. You can name this “X” score as you want to. TK Kader highly suggests using a score to measure how effectively your customers are using the platform. 

For example, You can evaluate their performance on a scale of 1-100. If their score is above 80 then they’re making the most out of your product. On the flip side, if the score is 50 or under 50, there’s more room for growth.

The purpose behind doing this is to: 

  1. Highlight everything they’re doing well
  2. Show them the benchmark of that score
  3. Introduce the opportunities they can uncover by capitalizing on the product.

3. Present them the roadmap

You’ve shown them the ROI delivered, giving them a rundown on their performance level and the opportunities they’re yet to explore. What’s next? 

Now is the perfect time to present the roadmap they’ll take to get from point A to point B. 

This is super important to add in QBR meetings because your customers need to see the opportunities they already have on their plate; they can consider a long-term partnership with you to be able to achieve their goals. 

It shows you’re not letting them get lost in the shuffle. Instead, you’re discussing the roadmap to help them explore the underlying opportunities.

However, many customer success managers forget to add it in their slides or they can’t drive alignment with the product and get the roadmap slide.  This is one big mistake to avoid. 


Closing thoughts

To recap, QBRs don’t have to be long-winded and boring. If you give value upfront and keep all the redundancy aside, it will turn out to be extremely useful for your customers. You need to know not every customer needs to have a QBR meeting with you. 

It’s best to have meetings with customers who have made bigger investments in your product and are likely to say yes to QBR meetings. Instead of wasting your and their time, follow these 3 principles to make the most out of QBR meetings.  

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