Quarterly business reviews, or QBRs, have long been a staple in the post-sales playbook.

However, the role and format of these meetings are evolving. Many customer success leaders look to drive more strategic value and alignment with their clients. 

In this guide, we’ll explore: 

Rethinking the traditional QBR

There seems to be an emerging shift in customer success away from rigidly timed, one-size-fits-all QBR meetings. A lot of customer success professionals will associate the QBR with account management.

Naming and cadence

Many are re-evaluating the frequency, naming convention, and overall purpose of these touchpoints. After all, the "Q" in QBR is just a reference to time. Rather than focus on rigid meetings once per quarter, Customer Success Managers should focus on the broader customer journey and engage based on customer milestones and impact.

There’s a growing feeling that QBRs often blur the lines with other touchpoints. To combat this, there’s a push to distinguish them as higher-level, strategic meetings rather than routine check-ins. 

How you refer to these meetings and the frequency truly depends on your organization's philosophy and what works for your customer base. There’s a movement against the strict quarterly cadence, instead calling them executive business reviews (EBRs) or strategic alignment meetings to reflect this mindset shift.

Many teams are shifting to performance reviews, using data to guide conversations and support alignment with their client's objectives. This ties into the broader move toward joint business planning with customers. Essentially, teams want these meetings to be proactive planning and strategizing sessions rather than retrospective updates.

However, others still see value in quarterly or even more frequent sessions to dive deeper into the client's business and initiatives.

The naming and cadence rely on striking the right balance for your scenario. However, the unifying idea is that these are distinct meetings that are separate from regular check-ins and focused on strategic conversations.

Tips to elevate your customer touch points

Data-driven, not data-drenched

Data and metrics are central to QBRs/EBRs, but they should be used judiciously to support the strategic narrative rather than dominate the presentation. The datato should start the conversation by framing where the client has been, but then lead into understanding their subjective concerns and needs for the future.

Executives in your client’s organization tend to check out when bombarded with too much raw data. The focus should be on showing measurable value, business impact, and strategizing for the next phase. You should aim to present data in a consumable wayupfront that directly ties into strategic goals and future opportunities rather than just reciting figures.

Structuring meaningful conversations

So what does an effective QBR/EBR format look like? 

First and foremost, it should have a clear and distinct goal defined upfront – never go into it aimlessly. Then the flow should enable an interactive dialogue by sprinkling questions throughout rather than delivering a one-way presentation.

A good approach is to set an open discussion tone from the start to facilitate a genuine back-and-forth conversation. You can kick things off with a thought starter based on recent news or industry trends relevant to your client. This helps ground the dialogue in their current context before diving into specifics.

Aim to balance quantitative data with qualitative insights, storytelling, and strategic expertise. You want to empower a balance of art and science in the meeting delivery. Then, when deciding upon a future roadmap, you might want to consider a collaborative exercise where you access the client's top priorities and focus areas based on their evolving goals and initiatives.

QBR best practices

There are several best practices you can follow and recommend to enable productive, tailored QBRs/EBRs:

  • Get buy-in and participation from internal stakeholders and champions. Share the presentation deck in advance and have them showcase contributions.
  • Customize the content based on the customer's current stage in their lifecycle and journey with your solution. Your messaging should be refined for that context.
  • Use benchmarking data and relevant comparisons – this helps gain engagement and spark valuable discussions about where they stand.
  • Maintain the momentum by continually "peeling the onion" and asking probing follow-up questions throughout to maintain an open dialogue.
  • Rely on presentation templates to guide the workflow and enable efficient scaling of the process, while allowing flexibility to tailor per situation.

Managing QBR challenges

Unfortunately, even with a clear focus and the best of intentions, you're still likely to hit a few snags along the way – c'est la vie! But don't stress, we've got your back.

A couple of unique challenges we’ve seen members of the CSC community encounter with QBRs and customer success models:

  • The substance and approach differ significantly if you're a one-to-many CSM versus a one-to-few or one-to-one model. Account load and complexity really impact your ability to customize.
  • While some customization is required, you can't fully reinvent the wheel for every single client. The goal is to tailor your approach using a general framework and template rather than start from scratch.
  • Maintaining consistent messaging and strategy across different customers and customer success managers is critical for a cohesive experience.
  • Discovery of the customer's evolving needs and priorities should be an ongoing process that continuously informs these meetings - it doesn't stop after onboarding.
Time management hacks for customer success professionals
“Wow, can you believe we’re nearly in April already?” 😱 I’ll bet you a pretty penny you’ve either heard this phrase or said it yourself at some point recently. It’s no secret that time passes fast, and it can either be an ally to you or an adversary – depending on how it’s used.

The future of QBRs

While perspectives vary, most of us agree these meetings should ultimately be "strategic checkpoints" focused on the customer's future direction versus rehashing the past. The point is to understand their goals and provide collaborative recommendations to increase value and alignment.

You can frame it as empowering your team to balance qualitative art and quantitative science in these meetings. Infusing strategic insights and storytelling alongside metrics and data visualization. You should think about rebranding away from the QBR label to position them as forward-looking sessions.

The unifying thread is using these touchpoints to drive alignment around the customer's evolving needs and co-create a purposeful roadmap for driving increasing value. It shouldn't be a one-sided update, but an open exchange.

As the customer success discipline matures, QBRs and other established practices will continue to evolve. Staying open-minded, focusing on meaningful dialogue, and constantly improving will be the path forward for yourself and the wider CS field.

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The ultimate QBR toolkit

Fine-tune your strategy and create reviews that truly resonate with your customers.

Quarterly business reviews (QBRs) should tell a compelling story and be data-driven, but getting all of the data you need and starting from scratch can be a challenge.

So are you ready to re-evaluate the way your team creates and delivers your QBRs?

You've come to the right place.👇