Whether conducted monthly, quarterly or annually, business reviews are absolutely table stakes for your team’s Customer Success strategy. I’ve personally written a few times on their importance, and there are a lot of other great resources that will help you to structure a process for delivering impactful Business Reviews.
Business Reviews are Your Report Card
Think of the business review as a recap of both yours and the client’s periodic report card. Of course, you want your report card to show that your company and product has met and (hopefully) exceeded the client’s business objectives. You also want it reflected that there are additional ways to drive continuous value through other services and products. Business reviews are designed to drive 'goodness' with your customer.
Even with all of the positive results you have achieved, there are bound to be some 'gotchas' lurking. When you are preparing, be sure to identify and have a plan to address them. Communicate what happened, be open and honest and don't let the conversation dwell on the negative as it can detract from all your hard work.
Here are some of the top mistakes that I have seen happen during the Business Review process:
Missing the Strategy
The strategy of a business review is to illustrate your customer’s realized value and develop methods to provide continual value. Value can come in many forms across the different phases of the customer lifecycle. They may realize value during adoption, use-case development, business objective attainment, and so on. Regardless of what you and your customer define value to be, this is your chance to reinforce their decision to choose your products to address their needs.
Take full advantage of the opportunity to highlight wins, achievements, and areas of opportunity. This is also an ideal opportunity for you to address any concerns that you may have with your client as well. Consider reviewing some of the following topics during your next business review:
Product usage increases/decreases
Existing KPIs / SMART Goal attainment or progress
Other noted areas of opportunity or concern
Share major updates/gather major news and updates from your client
To drive continual value, consider:
Developing added use-cases
Establishing additional SMART Goals or an expansion to the current set of KPIs
Identifying opportunities to expand usage into other areas of the business
The business review should not be a forum to discuss:
Tactical project work
Escalations or Support issues
Note: You may find that your business review takes a detour into these topic areas. If that should happen, provide enough information to address the question and then direct the conversation back to the strategic purpose of the meeting. Employing a 'parking lot' in these cases can help you to stay on track. Just be sure to follow-up on the issues that get 'parked.'
Relinquishing Authority/Ownership of the Business Review
For large or strategic customers, you may find your manager or Customer Success leader expressing a desire to join the business review. Situations like this can be an excellent opportunity for your customer and leadership to be exposed to one another and interact.
However, if you find yourself in a review with your leader present, think of them as being there to support your efforts. Your leadership should be present to aid you in achieving the goals of the business review meeting with the client, not to take control of it.
Avoid the trap of looking to your leadership to run the business review as deferring to management can often have unintended consequences such as:
Confusion on account ownership
Devalue you as the trusted advisor (the client could erroneously begin to look to your leadership as their advisor)
Use-case development or realized value miscommunication (leadership is not likely to be as familiar with the customer as you are and may misstate something or over/under promise delivery)
Provide a skip-level path to leadership for escalations
No Surprises During the Business Review
Business reviews are not the time for surprises. In fact, surprises can quickly derail any well-planned review. Before meeting with your client ensure that you review as many data points about your client as possible. During preparation, focus on identifying any abnormalities or anything new that is relevant to the goals you have set for the review. Consider looking into the following data points:
Recent survey responses (since the last review)
Previous meeting notes and action items
Project updates and status (where applicable)
Advocacy events (where applicable)
Marketing engagement (are they reviewing your content?)
If you do find something in the data review, be sure that you’re prepared to speak to it. If you’re not able to, at the minimum, provide a timeframe on when you can produce a plan or answers to their questions.
In short, don’t be shy about taking full advantage of the opportunity to share wins, concerns, and opportunities for your customer. Remember that customer success requires both parties to be involved in its delivery, make it a two-way meeting. Celebrate their wins, hear their concerns, and learn about their opportunities. Business reviews are a powerful process that will aid you and your client in building a mutually successful relationship.
Keri is a results-driven Customer Success leader with deep experience in helping SaaS vendors build and grow their Customer Success team’s operations and strategies. With over 12 years of experience, she has built Success teams for companies that range in size from start up to publicly-traded. Follow her on Twitter at @M1sskaos.