The Complete Guide to Quarterly Business Reviews for MSPs
Ready for a breakfast meeting? Not quite? Grab a cup of coffee because we’re about to tell you how to prepare for one of the most important breakfast meetings on your calendar. The Quarterly Business Review is among the most important meetings you’ll have with your clients. It’s like a managed service provider wellness check. An opportunity to build relationships with clients while showcasing your services and ensuring an ongoing partnership.
In fact, there are few things more important than customer satisfaction in the business of managed services, and the keys to that satisfaction are transparency and great communication. For this reason, Quarterly Business Reviews are one of the best tools you can use when it comes to keeping your clients updated on all the work that you’re taking care of for them.
- What is a quarterly business review (QBR)?
- How to structure a quarterly business review
- How to create a quarterly business review
- How to prepare for a QBR meeting
- Benefits of Quarterly Business Reviews
- Next Steps for Mastering Your Review
What is a quarterly business review (QBR)?
Sometimes referred to as a Technical Business Review or Semi-Annual Business Review, a QBR serves as an excellent opportunity, throughout the year, to touch base with clients, highlight the value of the services you provide, and create a strategic agenda moving forward.
It’s an excellent opportunity to discuss your client’s business goals, projects or plans they have in the pipeline, and learn about their long-term goals. In turn, it gives you the opportunity to demonstrate how you and your services can help them along the way.
In our managed services business, Compuquip, we learned a lot about perfecting these reviews and they served as a cornerstone in our efforts to keep clients happy and informed.
Let’s take a deep-dive into what a QBR meeting should look like, and how to leverage these meetings for closer, more fruitful partnerships!
How to Structure Your QBR
As noted above, our managed service business afforded us the opportunity to become quite adept at structuring a QBR. Not only did our format and content enable us align ourselves with our client’s goals, but it also allowed us to showcase how our services were essential to helping them achieve their goals. These meetings and QBRs also allowed us to provide transparency with our clients that enabled us to build trusting relationships, the kind that enhance partnerships and create long-term success.
Timing for a Quarterly Business Review
If you think about your work week, and more specifically your work day, there are times you’re more amenable to conversation, less pressed for time, and more open to the kind of conversations that open doors rather than close them. This should all be taken into consideration when it comes to the timing of your QBR.
First, ensure the meeting is convenient for all stakeholders. Still, it’s more than convenience. You also want to choose a time when everyone is alert and, again, open. Not easy, right?! That’s why we always suggest avoiding late lunch or a meeting near the end of the day. To be more specific, we found that QBRs as a breakfast meeting gave us the best results.
Why is that? To start, people are more likely to be in good moods, alert, and ready to take part in strategic discussions in the morning. Further, because other meetings are rarely scheduled first thing in the morning, choosing an early meeting ensures availability and can help you stand out from the crowd. Finally, most of our morning routine’s are hectic. We rush out the door, drop off our kids or clothes at the cleaner (sometimes the other way if we’ve not had coffee) and fight rush hour traffic to get to work. A meeting that allows us to sit down, grab a cup of coffee, have something light to eat is a pretty nice way to start the day.
Pro tip: Don’t think you have to assemble an entire spread of breakfast choices! Trust us... after years of successful QBRs, keep it simple. The secret? Bagels and coffee. They’re easy to transport, practically everyone loves them, and the price is great too!
In addition to when, you want to consider how often you should be meeting. You know your clients best, and it is important to provide them with a valuable interaction, that uses their, and your, time wisely. That isn’t always possible if you’re meeting too often. We recommend you try to meet at least three times per year as that keeps you in the forefront of their minds and helps build a stronger partnership.
Who Should Participate in QBRs?
Knowing the first step to QBR success lies in picking a time that will yield the highest attendance, it’s also just as important to make sure the right people are present. This helps ensure that the QBR has the proper gravity, that all stakeholders understand the connection between their business and your services.
Let’s take a closer look at who those stakeholders are:
- Your Technical Account Manager: Bring the person who manages this particular account on a day-to-day basis because they know the ins and outs of the client’s business. This is the person who puts together the report, sets the agenda, and generally leads the actual meeting.
- Your Point of Contact: Invite the person your team regularly interfaces with because they have an understanding of your daily operations and is likely someone with whom you already have rapport. Depending on the size and structure of your client’s business, this may be an Office Manger or even a COO or CIO.
- The Boss: Who’s the top dog, so to speak, on the client side? Again, this depends on the size and structure of each client, but someone like the Founder, Owner, or CEO of the business.
- The Person Who Signs Your Check: Who signs off on your partnership? It’s absolutely critical that this person sees the value in your services and they are the most important attendee. For your smaller clients, this may be the boss, but with your larger clients, the money person may be a CFO. Find out who it is, and make sure they are included at each QBR.
- Other Department Heads: This should include people who are one level down from the executives, such as members of a leadership team. Invite anyone who is relevant to the discussion, especially if you plan on pitching changes in processes that will involve their department. If necessary, provide a brief explanation for why you would like them to attend when planning the meeting.
How to Create a QBR
Okay. We’ve got a time, we’ve got a place, we’ve got the people. This is where we really dig in. It’s “The reason I asked you all here today…”
Make QBRs Strategic, Not Tactical
Your Quarterly Business Review isn’t the ideal time to get down into the nitty-gritty of daily operations. This is one of the few times you have executives from the client company there to listen to what you have to say — make the most of it and don’t get bogged down in the details.
Instead, zoom out and take a high-level approach to subjects you discuss. Executives and stakeholders are unlikely to be involved in day-to-day operations, so they don’t care about execution. They care about results.
Sometimes MSPs are tempted to use QBR time to discuss tactical issues, but we advise against it because those points should be discussed and coordinated directly with your day-to-day contact person. Executives aren’t as interested in the how as they are the what as in what have you done for them? For that reason, come to the QBR meeting armed with data. Show real-world returns from prevented problems and increased uptime. This approach builds trust and furthers your relationship as a trusted business advisor, rather than as just another vendor.
Additionally, during the meeting address the various roadblocks and obstacles that must be overcome to deliver an ideal service. This allows you to demonstrate your overall understanding of the landscape, where your client stands, and where they’d like to be. Identify areas where improvements can be made, and take a big picture strategic approach to problem-solving. Make sure you also listen closely to their concerns. In the end, both teams should align on ways to drive more value through your partnership.
What You Should Include in Your Reviews
As an MSP, the goal of your Quarterly Business Review should be to provide a top-down view of operations, making sure each discussion offers transparency and highlights the value your MSP has provided in that specific area.
Service Ticket Review
First, your QBRs should include a comprehensive service ticket review from the past quarter that shows how your team is handling ticket volume. The metrics are very straightforward - you want to compare the number of open tickets to the number of closed tickets. If your open and closed numbers are fairly even, it shows your customer that your team is handling support requests quickly. If the numbers are not relatively even, then you may have some explaining to do! Or more likely, it may be an indication the customer is over utilizing the service desk or they may need a different structure for their support.
In other words, this is an opportunity for you to be a business advisor. Suggest an alternative structure or methods and techniques to decrease service tickets. Service requests, even if your team is responding quickly and efficiently, results in slowed workflows and, potentially, employee frustration. Now is the time to offer a plan to alleviate both concerns.
Your QBR should also address your SLA. Compare your agreement to the services rendered and highlight areas where you have gone above and beyond. If there have been disputes or issues, now is a great time to discuss the matter while decision-makers are present.
In your report, take a deep dive into your agreement and provide updates on goals. How quickly have you responded to service requests? Have you met or exceeded your agreed-upon standards? If not, is there a reason why this is the case? Have you reached your service request resolution goal?
The SLA Review portion of your QBR is a good place to leverage positive client satisfaction surveys as well. As always, focus on the value you’ve provided while being honest about how you can improve moving forward and how those initiatives will work for your client’s goals as well.
The technical review should make up the bulk of your Quarterly Business Review. It gives you the opportunity to put the value you’ve provided front and center, while also providing some insight into where improvements in process could be made on both sides. The technical review must include all aspects of your services to provide a complete picture.
Your technical review should include the following:
Having the ability to centrally deploy, update, and troubleshoot endpoint devices for your clients is critical to a successful partnership, which is why most MSPs will agree that endpoint management is the “meat and potatoes” of your partnerships. You probably also know from experience that, when done well, the client rarely knows everything that goes into endpoint management and likely everything you’re doing for them.
For this reason, focus on detailing your endpoint management actions - it’s low-hanging fruit in terms of demonstrating value. Your QBR should include several aspects of endpoint management that should also be covered in your meeting:
- Patch management. Because patches are the first line of defense for your clients, it’s important to provide details about your patch management. More specifically, detail which machines are fully patched, which machines are missing patches (and how many patches they are missing), and reasons why those machines are behind. For instance, if those machines were powered off during that last installation window; it’s an important fact you should relay.
- Endpoint Security. Endpoint security is an important but often overlooked aspect of an MSP’s services. Often, clients only look into endpoint security when something goes wrong. However, you should make sure you set aside time in your QBR meeting to discuss your proactive efforts on endpoint security. Provide stats regarding your threat reporting and antivirus efforts. How many threats were detected? How many scans did you complete to identify those threats?
Not only does this establish transparency and provide a full view of the work you’re doing to protect their assets, but again, it provides an opportunity to align on goals and demonstrate your understanding of the security landscape.
- Warranty Reporting. Establishing your knowledge and oversight of your client’s devices is an opportunity to help showcase your value. Which machines will have their warranty run out soon? What are the recommended next steps? Will you soon provide a quote to extend the warranties?
The infrastructure management section of your QBR will include a lot of critical yet also technical information. While this is another excellent opportunity to showcase your value, reeling off a list of techie terms, speeds, and feeds won’t do that for you. Make sure that, in this section, you take the time to explain why each one of these areas is a big deal for the client’s business. Hint: If you use BrightGauge to monitor these areas, this is a great place to include your gauges and a visual representation of these values! If not, you can always include this data from other sources.
- Overall network uptime. Include network uptime data for all relevant servers. If uptime can be improved, provide insight into why the numbers are lower than expected and make recommendations for improvement.
- Alert trending data. Provide insight into recent trend reports. Is there a vital piece of equipment, system, or network that is constantly running into issues? What steps should be taken to improve performance?
- Server backups. How often are you backing up data? Have there ever been any issues during data backups? A summary of all relevant backups is a good thing to add, as it provides a detailed picture of how you are protecting their business.
- Domain admins audit. Who has access to the domain admin security group? Keeping a close eye on domain administrators that have access to servers, workstations, and files is important for protecting clients. How often is the user list being audited? Will that change moving forward?
- Server patch status. Which servers are up to date? Which servers are missing patches? Why are they missing patches? Offer a plan to ensure that all servers stay up to date moving forward.
Again, the goal with each metric is to provide the data, look for and recommend areas for improvement, and take the opportunity to make those suggestions.
Network Security Defense
Since protecting networks against viruses and other threats is important for maintaining the security of the entire organization, you’ll want to detail some key aspects of your network security efforts in this section of your report (this may also be a good opportunity to touch on your GDPR compliance efforts):
- Server Virus Protection. How many updates and scans have been performed? Have any threats been detected? Provide a complete picture of server virus protection using data.
- Email Security. Detail the protection efforts of the company’s emails and email server. Provide any relevant data regarding detected threats. Many organizations are compromised through employee email and clients know this. Reassure them that you have protections in place and demonstrate how those protections are working.
Keeping the subjects you just discussed in mind, now is a good time to dive into big-picture strategy and proposals to improve the business relationship moving forward. Make sure that everyone at the meeting has a solid understanding of what you are currently working on, what is planned for the future, and any recommended changes you may have. Include these recommendations in your report, and come to the meeting prepared to discuss those aspects of your partnership.
Let your clients know which of their employees may require additional training, based on the support tickets you have received. Training not only enables your organization to save time, but it is also another way for you to prove useful to your clients during the QBR meeting. Training may also go beyond tickets, but can include updated security and threat training as this is often a shortcoming at many organizations.
How to prepare for a QBR meeting
Got the bagels? Good. Truth be told, we all know it’s more than bagels and coffee. Again, this is your opportunity to stand out and demonstrate why your services are exceeding expectations and can continue to do so moving forward. You’ve got the chance to showcase how you are aware of your client’s business needs and goals and how your service can be tailored to help them achieve those objectives.
Much like everything else outline here, however, there are a few steps you want to take to ensure your meeting runs smoothly and touches on all the points you want to address with your client.
Create an agenda
The agenda is your opportunity to outline the information you’ll be presenting to your clients and also provides an overview for the areas you’ll want to research and be prepared to discuss in depth during the meeting. Finally, it’s important to remember that the QBR meeting is a chance for discussion, a chance for you to listen as well as speak, so the agenda is a good place for you to identify the areas where you may want client input.
You can also outline here the time you anticipate you’ll need which allows any executives or upper management in attendance to understand expectations and block out time for you. Your ability to anticipate their needs and deliver on them, in even this small way, sends an important message.
Gather your data and do your research
Three to four months, the time you’ll have, roughly, between QBRs, is ample time to analyze data regarding any initiatives started since your last meeting. Further, you’ll want to have the client data you’ll need as well as any relevant industry or market data to make any comparisons but also to provide that data and suggested initiatives to your client. It’s also an opportunity to review client goals discussed at the last meeting so you’re prepared to report on progress.
You’ll also want ample time to formulate responses to any shortfalls or weaknesses and investigate potential fixes. Be prepared to demonstrate not only your awareness that they exist, but how you’re prepared to adjust your strategies and tactics to improve.
Benefits of Quarterly Business Reviews
After ironing out the QBR process in our MSP, we found that there are quite a few benefits. To start, it offers a personal touch that clients appreciate. As MSPs, we’re all too familiar with the dreaded “why am I paying you” question. Of course, we at BrightGauge advocate for weekly or monthly reporting to help avoid that question from popping up, but adding in the face-to-face QBRs is a great touch point and opportunity to explain things in detail or answer questions that may not come up in emailed reports.
Second, having several people there from each department makes it easy to pinpoint issues and receive input from multiple viewpoints. Additionally, you’ll have everyone you need to make decisions to solve those problems. Ensuring that several high ranking employees within the company attend, you will dramatically improve your CSAT scores and ultimately, your customer retention.
Another often overlooked benefit of conducting a thorough in-person QBR is the fact that it will help you to highlight which of your customers are not a great match for your services. During your meeting preparation, you may find that there are conflicts within your SLA that inhibit your ability to provide a valuable service. Some common examples include machines not receiving timely updates, or an unwillingness to invest in critical infrastructure. You can also use these reports to gauge the overall profitability of a customer and decide when it may be appropriate for both parties to go their separate ways. In fact, Andrew Hutchison, Network Ops Manager at BlackPoint IT, confirms “We had some hard conversations, but having the data available took us down the path of getting rid of unprofitable customers.”
Next Steps for Mastering Your Review
Quarterly business reviews are a critical tool for your success. Instead of putting together a report and attaching it to an email, take the time to schedule a meeting with all relevant stakeholders. And, before the end of your meeting, schedule the next! Use each meeting to highlight the value you’ve provided, identify areas for improvement, and establish your business as a trusted partner, expert, and advisor, rather than an ordinary vendor.
In our MSP, we created a QBR template in Word that we could easily customize for each client with screenshot images from BrightGauge - and you can too! Download a copy of the Quarterly Business Review template that worked like a charm for us. And get in touch with the BrightGauge team to learn how our dashboards and gauges can enhance your QBR or how our reporting can streamline your data gathering efforts.