Embracing Vulnerability in QBRs: A New Paradigm for Customer Success

Embracing Vulnerability in QBRs: A New Paradigm for Customer SuccessEmbracing Vulnerability in QBRs: A New Paradigm for Customer Success

The significance of QBRs cannot be overstated. Many see them as another item on the “To-Do list” when in reality, QBRs are so much more than that. They have the power to shape the trajectory of your customers’ quarter, making the end of the year smoother and potentially more successful for them. QBRs also present opportunities for greater relationship and partnership building. 

Rachel provides a wealth of insights into making these sessions more than just a box-checking exercise. She advocates for a transformation in how QBRs are conducted, urging a shift from monotonous presentations to dynamic, interactive engagements that truly resonate with clients.

Dive into this blog to learn how the pros, like Rachel, are revolutionizing QBRs, turning them into impactful sessions that not only drive business success but also foster deeper client relationships.


The QBR Shift We Need for 2024

QBRs were originally meant to be a strategic, valuable checkpoint for CSMs and key stakeholders to converse and talk about future plans and goals. Somewhere along the way, CSMs began presenting a generic slide deck with only a few pre-determined questions to ask. 

Overly-scripted questions can feel more like an interrogation than a strategic conversation, and this is a missed opportunity for truly delving into a client's business outcomes and definitions of success.

The Typical Structure of QBRs and How We Can Improve 

Typically, QBRs have been a business check-in where CSMs present predetermined KPIs and numbers. It's usually a summary of what's happened within the last quarter. Simply put, it's been a presentation of information and goals as well as examples and information about the product roadmap.

A small tweak Customer Success teams can make to improve QBRs is to check in on the client numbers in terms of things that don't relate to the product but relate to the overall customer health and how that affects their organization as a whole. This can help the CSM uncover latent pain points while still allowing for a two-way, mutually beneficial conversation. 

The Typical Structure of QBRs and How We Can Improve 

Deepening QBRs Engagement Through Vulnerability

Strong QBRs will not eliminate all risk of churn. You can't save every single client nor every single element of risk. We can, however, maximize our chances of retaining clients by asking intentional questions to uncover latent risk during QBRs. 

Because of that, there's a greater opportunity in QBRs to ask questions that uncover uncomfortable conversations. Every business review should be treated as more of a two-way conversation, where the CSM is presenting information, but also asking questions like, “What would you need to see by the time you're up for renewal to feel comfortable signing a new agreement?” or “What is one goal you have that is not being met that we can prioritize this next quarter?” 

Questions like this, which ask for specific answers and encourage clients to think critically about what they hope/expect of the partnership and product, can lead to conversations that map out a better path for the customer which can lead to a more valuable and lasting relationship. 

Vulnerability means allowing our clients to speak freely and encouraging them to share their concerns, frustrations and goals so that we can build a comprehensive success plan for & with them. 

A sophisticated CS approach encourages CSMs to embrace this truth. Being vulnerable here means asking questions even when concerned that the answers may be negative or difficult to hear. It means actively resisting the natural fear of “poking the bear,” because we are only as smart as the information we have.

Vulnerability and Data: A Complementary Relationship

So let's say you're presenting analytics. You always want to check in and see how the client is receiving them. 

This would be an opportunity for you, as the CSM, to ask, “Do these numbers align with what you expected to see? Are they as positive as you would hope?” I ask because we have KPIs and benchmarks that we can show to compare your performance to, but I want to understand what's important for you as a business because industry standards are one thing. But your priorities as a business might be slightly different. So I want to understand.” 

This shows your customer that data is important to you but what’s more important is that you want to ensure that you’re presenting the data they are most interested in. 

Real-Life Example: Vulnerability Leading to an Unexpected Outcome

Rachel can think of a number of calls that she listened to or presentations she’s seen on other call capturing technologies over the years. She’s seen calls where a client has bulldozed a presentation that a CSM has taken a long time to prepare. That's because there was a disconnect between the client experience and what the CSM was aware of. Or because the CSM wasn't doing the proper level of research to anticipate the type of emotional environment that might be on this QBR.

Sometimes the vulnerability comes from the client and it may not go the way the CSM had hoped. In these situations, it’s best to listen to the client and tailor your approach the best you can to accommodate their needs. Another way to prevent this scenario is to send the agenda in advance of the call, so that they know what to expect. This can also be something CSMs are nervous to do, but it's best to be prepared. 

However, following the steps outlined in this article can hopefully prevent calls like this from happening! 

A Winning Strategy for Customer Needs and QBR Alignment

Start with ‘Why.” Experienced CSMs who are mature in their craft understand the importance of this. Strive to have a conversation that is based on the “why” and the “how” of your product and services rather than simply the “what.” 


QBR Evolution for 2025

AI's role in QBRs is set to expand and leverage advanced analytics to dissect past interactions such as calls, support tickets, and emails. This will enable teams to focus on what matters most to their clients, tailoring the QBRs to address specific priorities and challenges identified through AI analysis. The questions AI can help answer include identifying client priorities, understanding the frequency of certain topics or issues, and customizing the approach for each business review.

This technological evolution will streamline many of the manual tasks currently associated with preparing for QBRs, allowing teams to dedicate more time to strategic thinking and relationship building. With AI handling the heavy lifting of data analysis, CSMs can focus on crafting more nuanced, strategic QBRs that are deeply aligned with their clients' needs and expectations.

As this technology matures, we'll likely see a significant shift in how customer success teams operate, with a greater emphasis on strategic engagement and less on time-consuming data compilation. This shift will not only enhance how we deliver value to our clients in QBRs but also empower teams to engage in more meaningful, impactful discussions with their clients, fostering stronger relationships and driving success for both parties.

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