Business Review best practices
For most Customer Success Managers there comes the time when you are going to have a Business Review meeting with your customer. Organizations call these meetings many different things but in the end, they are all there to accomplish a similar goal. The problem is that these meetings can become routine or focused on the wrong things if we let them. In this article, we will talk about the goals, common topics and pitfalls to avoid when having Business Review meetings with your customers.
The goal of the business review is to ensure the strong and mutually beneficial value of the partnership between customer and vendor. I always view these like a Dr visit where the appointment starts out with the general niceties and small talk. It quickly moves to capturing and comparing vital signs and then moves into action from there.
What to cover and why
A Business review is a tad bit fluid on the topics and depth of conversation around each item. The topics are typically the same, but the variety has to do with the situation and the skilled Customer Success Manager navigates this well. Planning for each meeting should include the mantra, “Don’t get complacent.” As soon as a CSM begins to treat and execute a Business Review in a way that is not focused on and driving value for the customer, they will stop getting the level of attention required to strengthen the relationship with the customer.
Here is a good list of recommended topics and why they are important.
This may be a formal relationship scorecard or just a simple question and answer session. This topic fosters open discussion about the outcome and value that both parties expect or hope to get from the relationship. The data uncovered is foundational for the Customer Success Manager as they work through the year with the customer. Remember to follow the commandments of customer success, be an active listener and empathetic in these discussions to foster communication rather than shut it down. Get more details on the tracking relationship scores in our detailed article on the subject. (There is also a free downloadable worksheet for trending analysis in that article) Click HERE.
This topic is one of those that require planning and discussions in advance of the actual meeting with the customer. Share your company vision and roadmap for products and things that will benefit your customers.
This is not in the form of a sales pitch but rather a demonstration of your company making strides in the industry to further benefit your customer.
This discussion is most beneficial when you can also have your customer share their 2-5 year business goals or plan. For example, they may be in acquisition mode, focusing on business improvements in certain geographies, etc. This information will help you tailor your company roadmap discussion toward continued benefit and improvement for the customer.
This topic may cover any current activities, projects or engagements that your company is in with your customer. These are not meant to replace project status meetings or sales presentations. They are merely an acknowledgment of the current activities for both parties. In some cases, there may need to be a deeper discussion on a specific item and bringing the correct resource to the meeting is important.
This is a broad way to wrap up a meeting with the customer, it brings focus to action items after the meeting. This is when you summarize topics and actions discussed earlier. It is also when you ask for something if there is a need to do so.
Advocacy – If the relationship is going well, it is reasonable to ask if you can count on a reference, or quote to be used in marketing to new customers.
Expand relationships – What topics and benefits did you discuss that allows you to suggest and take action on expanding the relationship to other parts of the customer’s organization. For example, if during a business review the customer mentions a struggle that the Human Resources department is having, ask for a contact there to send them some information that may benefit them. Don’t start with a sales pitch but rather a valuable bit of content or information about how others have solved that problem or issue.
Action Items – Discuss these before the meeting is over. Make sure you have some and if the customer has some, discuss them, and commit names and dates to the items. In my experience, if these are left as general topics and not committed, they will likely not be completed.
Avoid the pitfalls
Participation – This is not a late night television talk show, avoid a monologue. If you go to a Business Review meeting and you are the one doing all the talking or the majority of it, there is a problem. Engaged customers are great partners. Disengaged customers require the CSM to focus on understanding what is of value to them and catering to it.
Focusing on the data – It is easy to focus on metrics such as support cases, usage metrics, revenue, satisfaction scores, but those should be informational toward bigger topics. The customer’s business outcome and value in real dollars and benefits should be the topic. Usage metrics may help you show the current state of someone’s usage that may not be as high as it should be, however, the customer wants to know that improving that usage will have X impact to their business outcome, not yours.
Defensiveness – There will be times when your company has been in error. Don’t defend the position, acknowledge it, own it, make it right and share what your organization has learned from the experience. More importantly, share what you have changed internally because of it. This strengthens the relationship. We all dislike the person with the chronic excuses. Don’t be that person.
Business Reviews should help make sure you know the current status of your relationship with your client. You should leave knowing believe your company is bringing direct value to their bottom line in some way. You should be able to have open discussions on easy and tough subjects. This can all be accomplished with proper planning and forethought. Be sure to act in alignment with the Commandments of Customer Success in your actions for the best results.