Jan 19, 2017

Read Time 7 min

Building a QBR process for your CS team, boosting your day-to-day productivity as a CSM, key CS metrics you should be measuring


Fighting Churn Newsletter

When someone mentions Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs), as Customer Success professionals we typically think of the reviews we do with our own customers, where we recap recent successes, define future goals and strengthen our relationships with key stakeholders. But there is another type of QBR that is critical to the success of a Customer Success team: the QBR of the CS team itself.

Internal team reviews are very common among Sales organizations of all sizes; established checks and balances help ensure new business growth remains steady and that executive management is always acutely aware of the Sales team’s production. But what about existing customer revenue? As your business grows, understanding and diligently tracking your revenue from existing customers becomes increasingly important; as SaaS entrepreneur and investor Jason Lemkin said in 2015: “Customer success is where 90% of the revenue is.” As such, conducting QBRs with your Customer Success team is just as important – if not more. It is a critical opportunity to use the team’s past to guide future planning and forecasting.

So how to you go about building an effective QBR process for your Customer Success team, particularly if you’ve never done one? And how to do you ensure that these reviews offer thorough review and strategic planning? This thoughtful post by Business to Community (B2C) offers four steps to ensure that your QBR is a collaborative time to understand from all angles what worked well, what tools were used or weren’t used, what went wrong during the quarter and what will be different in future quarters:

  • Make the process known, easy & efficient: As B2C succinctly puts it, “If the QBR process is difficult or confusing, you can be sure it will be dreaded by your Customer Success team.” Therefore the first step to cultivating beneficial QBRs is to have well documented steps of what is needed from each individual participating – both for those leading the QBR, as well as for those presenting. B2C even recommends putting together a “QBR Expectations” document to share with all participants that clearly outlines key facts such as who will attend, the agenda for the session (including how long each topic should be addressed) and what materials need be prepared beforehand. Additionally, B2C astutely points out that having a Customer Success Platform that can compile and analyze data is crucial, as this ensures that data presented is consistent across all reps and is also not a burden for team members to gather.
  • ALL levels of the CS team should participate: From executives to CSMs, every individual focusing on retaining and growing customer relationships should be involved in the QBR process and the reviews should be structured from the top down, with the highest executive leading their direct reports through the process. But B2C adamantly makes one point clear: the inclusion of all levels should NOT result in a QBR that is about “catching” CSMs and/or managers in mistakes or missed opportunities. Instead, “The goal of the QBR is to review and keep the business on track [and to] facilitate [the team’s] thinking for certain scenarios. It is important to set clear expectations of roles of both parties. CSMs and managers own their business plan and must demonstrate that they have a strong understanding of challenges and opportunities in their territory. The expectation should be that they they come prepared with a plan of action to address the challenges and the opportunities in their territory/business.”
  • Stick to the process – always: Was last quarter your best ever in terms of customer growth, reduced churn, and happy customers? That’s great to hear, but rather than skip the team’s QBR, it’s actually more important than ever to ensure the process is upheld. As B2c explains, “For many SaaS companies that have a gangbuster quarter with incredible MRR and happy customers, it’s tempting to modify the process and skip important steps because of other ‘more immediate needs’. [But] even after your best quarter or year ever, you should use the QBR time to reflect on what made it so successful. What’s repeatable? How do we hire and train new employees to be successful? How can we grow faster in the coming year without sacrificing quality?” So no matter how tempting, it’s paramount to never sacrifice the process. Such consistency guarantees that future QBRs will still be taken seriously and that these reviews will never be seen as punishment for a lackluster quarter.
  • The future is more important than the past: While it’s tempting to focus time on the known (the past quarter) for the majority of the QBR, most of the value is in applying the learnings from the past quarter to the future quarter. B2C recommends that this focus is clearly reflected in your “QBR Expectations” document so team members know to come prepared not only with past metrics and key learnings, but thoughts on how to move into the next quarter with a solid plan. B2C also strongly recommends that a coaching mentality is maintained at all times, regardless of difficulties: “You will encounter bumps in the road and unexpected conversations – some of which may be uncomfortable. The important thing to remember is to embrace a coaching mentality rather than barrage the CSM or manager with ‘why did you do that?’ questions, you ask more guiding questions. Questions such as: Tell me more about that. What made you respond that way? What will you do differently next time? What can we all learn and do better in this situation next time?”

Bonus tip: Be sure to document the QBRs and implement necessary changes afterwards! As B2C warns, “If nothing changes after a QBR and new processes aren’t enforced, they are wasted effort – and your team will know it.” Therefore it is crucial to keep track of performance metrics each quarter, document the actions each individual plans to take and diligently review those several days and weeks after the quarter ends (rather than wait until the next QBR when it may be too late).

For those of you who may be interested in also learning more about best practices when conducting QBRs with your own customers, we recommend this read and this read.

Customer Success Around the Web

  • Boosting your day-to-day productivity as a CSM: Optimizing productivity is important in any role but it requires particular attention in the world of Customer Success. As a CSM, your schedule can be at the mercy of your customers and the multiple hats you need to wear throughout the days and weeks will pull you in different directions. But never fear! This excellent post provides guidance on how to stay organized and at peak productivity while still ensuring your customers get the best service possible.
  • 3 CS metrics you should be measuring: Customer Success is your revenue treasure trove; helping your customers become successful with your product isn’t just beneficial for customers, it is also beneficial for your bottom line. So how to you effectively measure the impact of your Customer Success team, particularly when there are so many CS metrics out there to choose from? This post explores three key metrics that all SaaS companies can benefit from looking at: your churn rate, your expansion revenue and your customer satisfaction. Check out the full read for details on each metric and variations in how to capture and calculate each.
  • 5 things to do today to convert more customers into promotersWord-of-mouth is an effective business promotion tool. Referrals and recommendations from friends and/or relatives play an important role in the purchasing decision of a potential customer, as people are more likely to be persuaded by experiences of the existing consumers than your promotional messages. Given this, a business can achieve a notable competitive advantage by make a concentrated effort to convert more of its customers to promoters. But how do you go about doing this? This quick but smart read offers five things you can do – starting today! – to deepen your customers’ affinity with your business and put them on the path towards becoming a promoter who shares their positive experiences with others.

Word to the Wise

This week’s wisdom is about the challenge of creating a culture of customer success within the Sales teams. In the age of recurring revenue, Sales teams need to care beyond closing deals. Post close, the sales conversation continues as Sales, Account Management and Customer Success teams go after increasing monthly recurring revenue (MRR) from existing accounts through expanding contracts and referrals. But with the ever-constant pressure of quotas, it’s very easy for Sales teams to lose sight of that big picture. As such, it is increasingly important for leaders to know how to infuse customer success in the bloodline of their sales teams.

This great post asked experts in Sales and Customer Success for their #1 tip for creating a culture of customer success within Sales teams.  We highly recommend checking out the full read, it’s a smorgasbord of sage advice. But here are two of our favorites to get you started:

“My #1 tip for creating a sales team with a culture of customer success is to create a sales team that enables a culture of customer success within your company. Selling business that’s not a good fit does not set anyone up for success. It needs to start with your sales team as they are often the first people talking to your new customers. In order for a sales team to do this, the sales team methodology must revolve around the needs of the potential customer and finding the value that your organization can bring. Just as importantly, if you can’t solve the issues, your sales people need to be empowered to say so. Individually, sales people who understand the value in what they’re selling and are motivated by the purpose of being able to help others succeed are top performing sales people. They are more likely to stay with your company which means a deeper knowledge of your customers, your solution and the value it can bring. By hiring this type of sales person and creating a team whose purpose is value selling, your new customers and your customer success team will be set up for a successful, long-term relationship.– Jane Van Sickle, Director of Sales, Unbounce

What’s measured improves–but what you measure makes all the difference in the world. When it comes to creating a culture of customer success, it’s important to set measurements in place that reflect the outcomes you’re looking for–and they need to be long-term outcomes. If you make the mistake of being too money hungry, without thought for the long term of your company – it’s likely you will get into trouble. Employees will do whatever it takes to make those revenue numbers. Think about the recent banking scandal from WellsFargo–millions of fake accounts were created in order to make quarterly goals. The companies that are consistently successful create long-term strategies. The leaders make it known that customer success is important, and it’s not always all about quick cash.– Blake Morgan, Customer Experience author, Speaker, Advisor


Subscribe to the newsletter   

Empowering your customer success team through community

Has your customer community lost its spark? Teams are often eager to launch this new initiative, however, sustaining that same enthusiasm in the months ahead can be a challenge. “It's one thing to create excitement and another to keep people’s attention,” says Shauna...