Services companies’ most underutilized tool is the business review. Quarterly business reviews is a Business Term that reveal new ways to help clients achieve their goals, identify risks and opportunities you can address, and ensure customer leadership sees you as a key part of their growth strategies.
You know how valuable client business reviews are if you do them annually or quarterly. If not, you’ll discover what you’re missing.
Q.B.R.s are quarterly meetings with customers to assess your contribution to their success. They satisfy customers and keep engagements on schedule, within budget, and meeting KPIs.
We’ll discuss annual and quarterly business reviews, known as “executive business reviews” or “health checks.”
Because you want to be something other than just a service provider, you can mix and match elements from each category. You want to be your customers’ business partners. That boosts client loyalty and allows relationship growth.
Is a Q.B.R. required?
Not all service businesses need frequent or in-depth business reviews. If you provide breakroom coffee, a monthly email check-in may work. If you offer a business-critical service like technology, accounting, legal, or marketing, you must understand how it fits into the customer’s business strategy.
A well-defined performance-to-plan analysis shows customers where they are on their journeys, lower risk, or both—and how your services helped them get there. It makes the customer equally invested in and accountable for shared metrics like profit margin. Your service should help them achieve goals, but they must do the work. This reviews track Business plan KPIs so you and the client have skin in the game. That said…
They measure success.
Business reviews should include KPIs, realistic timelines, budgets, and responsible parties. This “scorecard” clarifies expectations and ensures your services steadily move clients toward goals. If you’re a digital marketing agency recruiting new clients, make sure there’s a sales strategy to close them. That way, you’re only partially responsible for low customer acquisition.
Conversion rate is a relevant sales KPI in that example. If the goal is 10% conversion and you’re sending plenty of prospects, but your client’s sales team needs to close deals, sales coaching may help.
They strengthen customer loyalty.
A business review should highlight successes and identify ways to grow. This shows that the customer understand how your contributions support its business strategy and that you’re looking for new ways to engage, which can increase loyalty and reduce churn.
How Do You Prepare for Q.B.R.s?
Preparation for a quarterly business review begins with engagement. Many service providers skip the customer discovery process, which should gather important data.
Gather this data early on to simplify annual or quarterly business reviews.
Get a list of contacts and an organizational chart.
Identify the direct contacts and influencers who will help implement and evaluate your strategy. If you work with an operations manager who needs to learn the company’s strategy, ask to meet the C.O.O. or someone who can define KPIs that align with business goals. In our previous digital marketing example, talking to the V.P. of sales will reveal how you can help close deals.
Set goals in a business plan
Know how your customer’s goals match yours. Suppose you’re a managed service provider with an S.L.A. for regular data backups. In that case, you should know what data you’re backing up, compliance regulations that backup must follow, how quickly your customer needs to get back online after a cybersecurity incident to meet its own S.L.A.s, and more. Clarify how your services and success metrics meet customer needs.
Understand customer success. Wins where? Where have previous providers failed? What did they do well that the customer expects you to replicate?
Discover unresolved issues your service will address.
Identifying issues your team can tackle is crucial, but successful companies go further. If you provide digital marketing services to support sales, you should know if the company is integrating a CRM or updating sales training.
Set success deadlines.
Create a template for early wins:
Check for resolution in future business reviews. Removing pain points builds upsell trust.
Know which KPIs win
In smaller shops, clients often want to hand over a general bucket of responsibilities rather than defining metrics to track engagement. Never skip this step. Business reviews and relationships depend on it. With a clear goal, you can satisfy a client.
After your customer discovery:
Digest the above information and create a comprehensive plan for helping the customer achieve their goals.
Create an annual plan to track quarterly.
Don’t make the plan too prescriptive—you and the customer will refine it as you discuss business goals and conditions change.
Q.B.R. with your customer.
Q.B.R.s vs. annual business reviews
The annual review, done at the start of the engagement and repeated yearly, can be tedious but defines success. Q.B.R.s should be shorter. Our best advice for both is: Be prepared to maximize customer time. Your contacts may be juggling many service providers. Respect that to stand out.
Annual Business Review—What Is It?
You learn about your customer’s business during an annual business review. Note: The past 18 months showed that goals and tactics could change quickly in a weird and unpredictable business environment, so you may need to do more in-depth reviews if conditions change dramatically.
Meet with your client at least once a year for two hours. Annual business reviews involve:
We repeat: Align your engagement goals with the customer’s business strategy. You want to grow with clients. You can’t plug in without knowing what “good” and “better” are. Don’t settle. Look for ways to contribute in the future to keep customers.
Reassess business objectives.
Whether it’s your first business review with this client, review last year’s goals. Review your client’s top goals with your predecessor if it’s your first time. Discuss whether last year’s goals were met and why.
Set three annual business goals.
Discuss business strategy, not just your service. That breadth lets you find new services.
Find next-year opportunities.
Who is your customer targeting? Where are they expanding? What are their new offerings? Do they design new products internally? Supplier issues? What are their new systems? Again, these insights enable you to advance everyone.
You always need to find where you’ll find a need for your services or a way to solve a business problem; In other words, your business ideas should be based on problem to solve. Clients may have trouble scaling or supporting new customers. Staffing, supply chain visibility, and margin pressure may be pressing issues for the next year. The client’s organization may need adjustment. Understanding what isn’t working is as important as understanding what is, perhaps more so because it presents problems you can solve.
What Should a Q.B.R. Contain?
You must agree on what “good” is to meet customer needs. If you understand how the partnership would work, this should take a little time.
Q.B.R.s should outline three areas:
Customer strategic goals and how you can help. In our digital marketing example, the customer may want 300 new customers from a specific vertical this year to help them expand into new markets.
Your S.L.A. or service contract and your strategic goals. Your digital marketing agency is implementing new marketing automation software or integrating multiple systems to serve your clients better. How does that goal relate to customer expectations?
Customer-defined strategic goals. The client’s team may need 2,000 marketing-qualified leads to acquire 300 new customers. Before your quarterly business review, you know their strategic goals and your role.
What do “SMART” goals mean?
Take what you’ve learned and outline the areas where planning, accountability, and money and time investments will drive engagement.
Outline three to five strategic initiatives through your direct touch to grow various business areas. These items require immediate action but may not yield immediate R.O.I.
Digital marketing services shouldn’t be expected to help the sales team acquire 100 new customers in the first two months. How can you achieve the year’s goal?
Keep goals in mind.
S.M.A.R.T.—Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
Your customer may want to cross-sell to existing customers. How much revenue does the team expect from this initiative? What’s their customer base? When will they reach this goal? How are marketers advancing that initiative? Plug in where? After discussing these with the customer, you can define an S.L.A., commit to a benchmark, and understand the engagements next year.
Plan your attack here. Since the annual review kicks off the year, list open items that will move the business toward its goal. Note business review follow-ups. Consider a new platform or technology. To ensure accountability, write them down.
You and your customer must then physically sign the plan. Valid in court? Not likely. The action solidifies a joint commitment to the review’s objectives, KPIs, and strategies. It also makes it harder for customers to return during a Q.B.R. with new goals you’ve never heard of and claim you’ve known about them. You can refer to a shared strategy if they throw a curveball.
How Do You Q.B.R.?
You carry the annual business review. It’s a lot, but you’ve already identified objectives, initiatives, and KPIs, so quarterly client check-ins are faster. Q.B.R. verify your and the customer’s progress. The review should help you identify wins, discuss KPIs, review open projects, and prepare for the next quarter unless your customer has a major strategic shift to share.
Wins and losses.
Take a moment to discuss successes and areas where you or the client may have missed the goals you signed off on at the end of the annual review.
Check previous quarters to ensure you’re meeting goals. Calculate how many M.Q.L.s you’ve delivered, how many you need, and your momentum. Did your I.T. service provider exceed S.L.A.s? Closed; how many tickets? Average closing time? C.P.A.s will want to know if quarterly taxes have been filed, forecast accuracy, and how quickly their team responded to inquiries. Track relevant metrics.
Again, quick. The Q.B.R. should summarize results and progress from monthly customer check-ins by project managers. Show how you’re meeting mutual goals.
Review your team’s engagement-related improvements. It’s not the client’s job to find other ways you can help. If they’ve finished CRM integration, suggest a new marketing technology platform. New vertical? Consider suggesting sales team training or events.
If the timing is right, bring in the account’s sales rep to find upsell or cross-sell opportunities. Sales can make clients stubborn.
Discuss unresolved issues.
Client issues or yours may slow progress. Has your hiccup slowed progress? When delays are addressed regularly, clients are more forgiving.
Don’t fix customer issues you can’t fix. Getting out of that trap is hard. Waiting for client integration? Is their H.R. department hiring for a key role slowly? Avoid surprises by addressing outstanding, overbudget, or late items. Help, but don’t take responsibility for things you can’t change. Who oversees the client’s projects? Who makes decisions that may delay them? Use the org chart.
Rearview-mirror metrics and open projects may raise unresolved issues. Note them and return them here. This advice applies to all Q.B.R. sections: If business objectives change in earlier sections, note it and then clarify those changes in the appropriate section to ensure everyone is on the same page. Your notes need to be more.
Business objectives change.
Your client’s business goals may change throughout the year. Though frustrating, it will happen. Stay flexible and discuss goals regularly to prepare for a new quarter’s goals.
Assess last quarter’s objectives.
Map your annual business review objectives to a KPI scorecard to hold everyone accountable for engagement progress.
Discuss relationship issues.
Ask your client: Does your team answer emails quickly? Is service resolved quickly? Any issues? What can be improved? Are you valuable this quarter?
Do it fast. This is a recap to help the client remember you when they’re planning future projects. Do you see future ways to plug into the customer’s business? You could add departments or services. You’re not selling; just suggesting.
Sign the scorecard and finish.
Sign the scorecard after the Q.B.R. to hold everyone accountable for the metrics, strategies, and goals. This accountability helps maintain the relationship. Ask the client about your call cadence.
Q.B.R.s take 30 minutes or less. First, you’ve been updating this information and thinking through each point throughout the quarter. Second, you’ve been tracking KPIs in your scorecard and are ready to breeze through it—if your client is pressed for time, focus on the scorecard. Third, Q.B.R.s get faster and better with practice.
Satisfied customers reduce churn for service companies. Regular customer feedback makes it easier to know if you’re meeting expectations. Without the business review process, you’re lost in space, guessing what to do.
You might think you know your stuff, but accounts will always say they’re dissatisfied one day out of the blue, and you’ll wonder where you went wrong. Check-in with clients and use CRM software to track satisfaction to avoid that. Doing so aligns you with customers’ overall business objectives, allowing you to provide value and further integrate into their strategies. Everyone likes being needed.