Business Review: Evolutions, Advice, and Best Practices

 Business Review: Evolutions, Advice, and Best Practices

Customer Success is constantly innovating, and the evolution of Business Reviews is part of this movement. I thought it would be interesting to share some of the evolutions I have seen, current best practices, and a look to the future. As Business Reviews should be a celebration of mutual success between suppliers and customers, I thought it would be nice to be able to tell the story and set the pace... with music! 



Without wanting to sound outdated, I recall my time at 20 years old vividly. As a young Account Manager, we were already conducting Business Reviews with our Tier 1 customers. Back then, the focus "at that time" was more transactional and centered on customer satisfaction. We aimed to prevent the customer from ever saying "I can't get no satisfaction," but the concept of business gains (outcomes) was somewhat lacking. The primary goal of the Business Review was to determine whether the customer would continue purchasing or if there were any issues with the product or service provided. It felt like a constant cry for help. There was little consideration for whether they would achieve their ultimate goals and soon be "on the road again.


Then, 'over time,' in my early days in Customer Success around 2010, the Business Review evolved to include, as its name suggests, a review of the 'business' and the gains for the customer. Of course, it serves to collaborate with the customer and help them explicitly demonstrate the gains in relation to their investment (e.g., productivity gains, improved collaboration, cost reductions, time savings, increased revenue or margin, etc.). This is an opportunity to showcase tangible value where nothing is left to chance, with the hope that "the wind will carry us"


"And Now"

The Business Review has further evolved to be seen more as an opportunity to measure mutual success between the customer and supplier. In this relationship of genuine partnership, the Business Review helps to recognize mutual dependence and a sort of "where would I be without you" sentiment between supplier and customer, so that each can find "life in the pink".


Moreover, the Business Review presents an excellent opportunity for the supplier to learn from its customers and fine-tune its offerings to ensure continued satisfaction. For example, this may involve identifying blockers to integrating the tool into the customer's context, discovering new use cases or user populations, gaining insights into business processes, or addressing challenges in change management.

This information presents immense opportunities for the Customer Success teams and all internal departments to refine the product, associated services, content, and communication across the customer journey, from initial discovery to subsequent renewals. This contributes to a continuous improvement approach and helps prevent customers from reaching the point of saying, "I've come to tell you I'm leaving". 


Business Review: Best Practices in 2023

In addition to this mutual success approach, the Business Review is becoming increasingly flexible and adaptable. Here are a few evolutions and best practices: 



A Business Review presents an ideal opportunity to deliver on the promises made during the sales process and to guide the customer towards achieving their aspirations. Here are some key practices:

  • Customise Business Reviews to the accommodate the varied interests and objectives of stakeholders (e.g., sponsors, budget decision-makers, user champions), even if in a condensed, tailored format. This approach can better meet their expectations, similar to EBRs (Executive Business Reviews).
  • Involve budget decision-makers in Business Reviews and in  all discussions regarding value and benefits beyond the scope of Business Reviews.
  • Tailor the pace the Business Review according to financial cycles, budgetary considerations, or the preferences of busy customers. The pace of the QBR "Quarter" may not always be necessary, relevant, or desired.
  • Encourage customers to participate in the preparation of their own Business Review arather than solely relying on the supplier to provide a data dump of slides for review, as was common in the past.
  • Consistently add value for all participants involved in the Business Review process
  • Maintain a focus on delivering value and achieving business gains. Avoid getting sidetracked by technical issues and bugs.
  • Ensure that the value delivered aligns with the objectives of the sponsors and, subsequently, with the users.
  • Remember that high adoption is not always synonymous with success. While the use of a solution offers insight into its use, it does not necessarily reflect the results and benefits that the customer derives from its use.
  • Map out the correlation between performance gains and activities using my A.M.P.M. methodology - Activity Measurement and Performance Measurement).
  • Before each Business Review, consult with the customer to determine what constitutes a successful meeting for the various participants. At the conclusion of the Business Review, inquire whether the meeting met the participants' expectations for success. Make adjustments to the system as needed.


Internal and External Collaboration

The Business Review serves as more than just a tool for the CSM team; it fosters collaboration between the supplier and the customer, where everyone works together to achieve success. Here are some key practices:

  • Ensure that the CS team understands its role in preparing, conducting, and monitoring Business Reviews, and clarify how other teams (e.g., product, sales, and marketing) can contribute. Using a RACI matrix can be helpful in delineating roles and responsibilities.
  • Ensure that all teams, not just the Customer Success team, comprehend the significance of Business Reviews for both the customer and the supplier.
  • Develop clear communication channels to explain how other departments contribute to the preparation of Business Reviews,  such as providing testimonials and success stories, highlighting key success indicators, sharing use cases, and updating on product developments.
  • Facilitate internal information sharing within the CS team to fuel continuous improvement efforts across products, services, promises, and communication strategies.
  • Ensure the appropriate participants are present based on the type of Business Review, on both the supplier and customer sides.
  • Collaboratively prepare the Business Review between the supplier and its customer, preferably using a collaborative tool to enhance efficiency and transparency.
  • Creating expectations at the start of the customer relationship: The Business Review serves as a crucial milestone in the partnership between the supplier and the customer. It provides an opportunity for customers to openly communicate with the supplier regarding their adoption, performance, business gains, and any challenges they encounter along the way. 
  • Define which aspects of the Business Review should be completed by the customer,  such as providing data on gains, achieving success milestones, sharing use cases, and offering testimonials from champions. 
  • Establish a Business Review follow-up plan that outlines actions for both the supplier and the customer to undertake between the current and next Business Review sessions.  
  • Ensure that a mutually agreed-upon date for the next Business Review is set, with the participation of all relevant stakeholders from both the customer and supplier sides. It may be beneficial to schedule the date at a pace that is convenient for the customer .


Well-organised operations

The successful execution of a Business Review relies on well-organized operations and processes between suppliers and customers, with the customer taking the lead in determining and communicating gains. This necessitates the supplier to facilitate this task for the customer by establishing an operational system where the customer is in the driver's seat and "drives the car":

  • Define which customer segments require a Business Review. There may be variations based on personas, needs, verticals, etc.
  • Begin with a pragmatic process that can be refined over time as more data becomes available.
  • Specify the quantitative and qualitative data needed for the Business Review.
  • Start with the available data and then identify any missing data types.
  • Determine which data can be collected by the supplier and by the customer. For instance, usage data should ideally be accessible to stakeholders via a dashboard for monitoring and action.
  • Encourage customers to communicate their gains, or at least the extent to which they have achieved their objectives.
  • Develop a Business Review model or template aligned with the identified data and update it as necessary. If possible, integrate the Business Review model or template into collaboration tools used with the customer.
  • The Business Review model or template can be adapted if necessary, for example, according to the type of Business Review, customer segment, use cases, personas, products, etc 


The future

Yes, "I loved you, I love you, and I will love you" again, and the Business Review is taking on a new dimension to reinforce the customer's responsibility and autonomy in driving and monitoring their own efforts for change and gains, adopting a self-care approach. With the proliferation of data and its sharing via collaboration tools, suppliers will provide more resources to empower their customers as true masters of their own success, so they can proudly proclaim, "we are the champions". 


Customers will increasingly take center stage as the super rock stars, the heroes and heroines of the show, while suppliers will remain behind the scenes, ready to assist if needed. The Business Review will transform into more of a GPS-like tool, presented as a real-time dashboard shared between supplier and customer. This transition is already underway and will empower customers to compare and benchmark their performance against similar companies. It also provides an opportunity to offer Digital Business Reviews to customer segments that have previously lacked access.


Lastly, these evolutions, along with others in Business Review and Customer Success, will be engaging topics to discuss at future meetups in 'Paname' and elsewhere, as well as at the Engage Paris event we're organising for June 2024. Join us as "Paris awakens" to continue our journey of sharing, exchanging ideas, and learning together. In short, you know the drill!


Sue Nabeth Moore - Co-Founder, Success Chain

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