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QBRs: The Ultimate Guide to Quarterly Business Reviews [2021]

The only guide on QBRs you'll ever need to read.
Patrick Icasas
August 17, 2021
Resources

What is a QBR?

QBR stands for Quarterly Business Review. It’s a quarterly touchpoint with your customer where the intention is to review the impact of your product on the customer’s business as well as discuss future goals.

It’s a crucial part of any Customer Success program, because it ensures a regularly recurring conversation around the value the vendor is delivering, and if used right, can ensure a smooth renewal process.

What’s included in a QBR? 

What is a QBR?

A QBR agenda usually includes one or more of the following items:

  • Review of implementation or product usage goals
  • Review of performance over the past fiscal period and quantifying the value driven (whether quarter or otherwise)
  • Discussion of strategic obstacles and challenges
  • Planning for future actions or growth
  • Preview of upcoming product improvements
QBR Tips

A QBR is NOT:

  • A sales pitch
  • A social gathering
  • A bragging session (although you should still emphasize your wins)

Quarterly Business Reviews should never be self-serving. They should be all about the customer and whether or not your product and services are enabling them to achieve their goals. 

What are the benefits of a QBR?

QBRs can deliver a number of benefits for both you and the customer. 

Alignment (or realignment) on goals

Businesses are an ever-shifting environment, and they operate in ever-shifting markets. So it should be no surprise that a customer’s goals for your product would also evolve over time. 

When you conduct a QBR as a CSM, you should discuss what those new goals are. You might even broach the subject of changing the goals yourself, if you notice that the customer isn’t using the product the way you’d originally discussed. 

Now that both sides are aware of and acknowledge the new goals, it will become easier to draft an action plan about how to accomplish them. 

Understanding of value

Customers can sometimes get so caught up in the daily grind that they lose perspective of your product. Sure, they may notice that things are running a little more smoothly, and someone may share the occasional positive feedback, but your customer contact might not be able to see the scale of what they’ve achieved with your product until you point it out to them.  

The QBR is a great opportunity to show the customer how much value they’re getting from your product at scale. While individual success stories are important, you should show them the impact to their organization as a whole. This requires the use of metrics, survey data, and whatever other key performance indicators (KPIs) that are available to you. 

Reinforces relationships

Customer Success is just as much about relationships as it is about the actual product. Without regular face-time with your customer (virtual or otherwise), you run the risk of losing touch with them and thinning the flow of conversation. 

A QBR is a great opportunity to stay connected with them, as well as get in front of other important people in their organization. 

For the customer, the benefit is that they can place a face on the product. It personalizes the partnership and reassures them there are humans on the other end of the line. They will also know who to reach out to in the event they have questions or something goes wrong. If you can maintain a strong relationship, it can eventually lead to an upsell opportunity.

Early-warning signals

Have you ever been taken by surprise when a customer churns

Turns out these customers had been “suffering in silence” for quite some time, and you didn’t pick up on it. 

More often than not, those churns could’ve been predicted (and prevented) if you’d been conducting QBRs. 

Quarterly Business Reviews can function as an early-warning system to detect problems in an account. The customer will have regular opportunities to bring up product feedback, problems, and obstacles, and you will have ample time to address them before renewal. 

QBR vs EBR: What’s the difference?

The term “QBR” is used in different contexts, not just for customer success. And while the difference between a Customer Success QBR and an American Football QBR (Quarterback) is pretty obvious (I hope), the difference between this and EBRs or Sales QBRs is pretty subtle.

QBR vs EBR

QBR stands for Quarterly Business Review, while EBR stands for Executive Business Review. 

In a Customer Success context, they both basically refer to the same thing (a regular meeting to review product value), but the EBR is leaning heavily towards the top of the company org chart. 

It isn’t just the attendee list that defines an EBR, though. The EBR agenda places a stronger focus on executive-level concerns and less emphasis on day-to-day operations. It deals more with overall strategy than tactical considerations. 

Customer Success QBR vs Sales QBR

Customer Success isn’t the only one that conducts QBRs, which can be confusing because an internal Sales QBR, while similarly named, covers an entirely different topic. 

In Sales circles, a Sales QBR is where the Sales team comes together internally to review their accounts and provide a revenue forecast. There are still performance reviews and strategic planning involved, but it’s more inward-facing in nature; getting salespeople to improve. 

In a Customer Success QBR, all of the attention is focused on improving the customer’s results. It’s about helping the customer achieve their goal, which will eventually lead to more renewals and maybe even more licenses. 

How do you conduct a QBR?

There are many ways of conducting a QBR, and they don’t all have to happen in the same way. But there are still some best practices that would be good to follow.

QBR Frequency

This might seem a no-brainer. After all, the frequency is right there in the name: Quarterly

But the reality is that some customer relationships might not be appropriate to a quarterly review. If the customer’s implementation timeline is very aggressive, or it is a very eventful account where plenty of things happen, you might consider increasing the frequency to once a month, and then dialing it back when the onboarding period is over. 

If, on the other hand, the account is reasonably laid back, quiet, and has very simple and basic needs, quarterly may be too frequent even for them. Perhaps twice a year of formal QBRs while emailing them once a quarter to do a temperature check.

The key is knowing your customer well and adjusting based on their specific requirements. 

Quarterly Business Review Agenda

Quarterly Business Review Agenda

To my mind, a QBR absolutely MUST contain the following agenda points:

  • Review product performance for the past period
  • Comparison of performance against past goals
  • Discussion of gaps/future goals
  • Action plan to address gaps/future goals

These agenda points are nice to include if you have any to mention, or if there is time:

  • Upcoming product updates
  • Notable tickets/incidents/use cases

Keep in mind that while you can and should definitely celebrate successes during a QBR, that is not the primary purpose of the meeting. It is a customer lifetime touchstone where you review and, if necessary, course-correct the direction of your implementation. 

Prepping for QBR Questions

The customer might ask you hard questions during your QBR, and you need to be prepared. This is not the time for a deep dive into your database. You should already have all relevant information ready to go - whether memorized or easily accessible in your CRM or ideally, a purpose-built Customer Success Platform like Catalyst. 

Ready information like:

Basic subscription info

  • Number of licenses
  • Tier level
  • Discount rate (if applicable)
  • Total annual billing

Crucial dates

  • Signing date
  • Renewal date
  • Implementation / Training specific milestone dates (e.g. launch date)
  • Cancellation deadline

Strategy and goals

  • Overall strategic goals
  • Department-specific goals (if applicable)
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

QBR Templates you can start using today

You may be saying to yourself, “a QBR seems like a great idea, but I have no idea how to start one!”

That’s where we can help. We’ve put together a brief collection of templates you can use to jump-start your new QBR process - from invite to presentation. 

QBR Email templates

You can’t have a Customer Success QBR without an actual customer in attendance! 

We’ve included a few email templates for different scenarios - including for when you are introducing the QBR process to an existing customer. Feel free to adapt them to your own unique voice.

Invitation - First-time QBR for existing customers

Hello [fname],

Thank you very much for your continued use of [your product]

In an effort to ensure you always get the maximum benefit from our services, we invite you to join us in a Quarterly Business Review session. 

This QBR will be an opportunity for us to connect and share results and feedback on your usage of [your product]. You’ll have the opportunity to voice what has been going well in our business relationship, and what can still be improved. 

This will be the first QBR of many. I’m confident that regular and consistent QBR sessions will give you incredible value and improve the results you’re getting from [your product].

Can we schedule a time?

Regards,

[me]

Invitation - First-time QBR for new customers

*Note: You wouldn’t normally conduct a QBR for a customer that signed a fresh contract. This email template is for customers that have just finished their onboarding and training program. 

Hello [fname],

Congratulations on concluding the onboarding process for [your product]!

In an effort to keep the momentum going, and to ensure you always get the maximum benefit from our services, we invite you to join us in a Quarterly Business Review session. 

This QBR will be an opportunity for us to connect and share results and feedback on your usage of [your product]. You’ll have the opportunity to voice what has been going well in our business relationship, and what can still be improved. 

I’m confident that regular and consistent QBR sessions will give you incredible value and improve the results you’re getting from [your product].

Can we schedule a time?

Regards,

[me]

Post-QBR follow-up (w/ action items)

Hello [fname],

Thanks for attending our QBR! It was a very fruitful session and I’m optimistic about our progress moving forward. 

I’ve taken the liberty of including my notes from the session so that everyone is on the same page about next steps.

If you’d like a copy of my presentation, please let me know and I’d be happy to provide it to you. 

Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or concerns. We will be conducting another QBR meeting in the future, but you don’t have to wait if you have an immediate need!

Regards,

[me]

Post-QBR follow-up (no action items)

Hello [fname],

Thanks for attending our QBR! It was a very fruitful session and I’m optimistic about our progress moving forward. 

If you’d like a copy of my presentation, please let me know and I’d be happy to provide it to you. 

Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or concerns. We will be conducting another QBR in the future, but you don’t have to wait if you have an immediate need!

Regards,

[me]

QBR Powerpoint templates

We’ve prepared some handy Powerpoint slide templates that you can use to put together your own QBR presentation. These slides cover the most common and important discussion topics, but you are free to add your own slides to discuss whatever points or data you feel are important. 

QBR PPT Templates
Use wisely!

Bear in mind that these templates can and should be modified to reflect your own company branding. 

All slide samples can be found here.

QBR presentation tips

A Quarterly Business Review is just like any other meeting… except that it’s not. 

QBR meetings must be both engaging and informative. You’re going to be talking a lot about customer value, and so your meeting must contain a lot of value in turn. 

Here are some practical QBR presentation tips that you can use to ensure a smooth session. 

Prepare, prepare, prepare… and then prepare some more

The success of your QBR is directly proportional to the amount of preparation you pour into it. This includes preparing things like:

  • Agenda
  • Presentation deck
  • KPI report
  • Recommendations

Preparation also includes knowing all of your client’s profile information backwards and forwards. When do they renew? What is their annual rate? How much of a discount are they currently receiving? 

Any of those questions could be asked at any point. And while the world won’t suddenly end if you can’t remember the threshold of the next pricing tier, researching that information halts the flow of conversation and makes the meeting take that much longer. 

Doing that once in a while is okay. We’re only human and can’t remember everything. But if you have to look up information every time a customer asks you a question, they’ll start to wonder if you really know what you’re doing. 

Coming into a meeting armed with all the answers gives a much better impression - one that reflects positively on the company as a whole.  

Respect your attendee’s time

There’s a large gulf between meetings that are “short” and those that are “value-rich.” Even short meetings can feel like hours if they aren’t engaging. 

Don’t pad the agenda with useless fluff, especially if you have senior members of their company on the call. 

In fact, you may want to structure your agenda in such a way that the critical information is handled first, and allow those who no longer need to be part of the rest of the discussion to leave. 

Engage, not talk

You’re not on-stage at TED. The QBR is not a one-way presentation. The customer can and should ask questions, and you should ask questions of the customer in turn.

This is the opportunity for both of you to ask questions that you have been burning to ask all quarter. These questions increase both parties’ understanding of each other’s situation. It can lead to solutions, or it can lead to a stronger partnership. 

For instance, you might ask:

  • Why do you feel the team is putting up so much resistance?
  • Who are the most dedicated users of the tool?
  • Are we focusing on the right goals?

While the customer might ask:

  • How can we improve adoption?
  • What upcoming features can help our use case?
  • What’s the most efficient way of doing X?

Questions like this could be asked at any point during the relationship, but for some reason customers (and CSMs) don’t think to ask until given the explicit opportunity to do so. Also, some questions on the customer side require preparation (like gathering information from the user base). 

You don’t have to answer all the questions right away. Even the most prepared CSM will have some gaps in their knowledge. But the important thing is that the questions are asked, and the answers will be forthcoming. 

In conclusion

Quarterly Business Reviews are an essential part of any Customer Success program. They provide many benefits when they’re done properly, such as:

  • Engaged customers
  • Up-to-date customer insights
  • Communicated value
  • Smoother renewals

QBRs have to be approached strategically, just like the implementation of your product. It has to undergo thorough planning and extensive preparation to ensure that the customer is getting value - not just from the product, but from the meeting itself. 

The QBR is as much a part of your brand as the marketing is. You are showing your customer the value that you bring to the table, and your willingness to work with them through challenges. This is crucial in a period of their lifecycle where the QBR is going to be their primary mode of contact with your company outside of using the product. 

So make it count!


Better relationships. Less churn.

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