The Complete Guide to Quarterly Business Reviews for MSPs
There’s nothing 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.
You may know them as Technical Business Reviews, Semi-Annual Business Reviews, or any one of a dozen different names. No matter what you decide to call them, they serve as an excellent opportunity to touch base with clients, highlight the value of the services you provide, and create a strategic agenda moving forward. 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!
Timing for a Quarterly Business Review
The timing of a QBR is incredibly important, because you have to make sure that the meeting is convenient for all stakeholders. You also want to do your best to choose a time when everyone is going to be alert and in a good mood. Not easy, right?! That’s why we always suggest to avoid the late lunch or a meeting near the end of the day. To be more specific, we found that setting up our QBRs as a breakfast meeting gave us the best results.
Why is that? Well, to start, it’s at the beginning of the day. People are more likely to be in good moods, alert, and ready to take part in strategic discussions. Another reason to push for the breakfast meeting is that it’s likely the best time to ensure all stakeholders can attend. Meetings are rarely scheduled first thing in the morning, so choosing an early time can help you to stand out from the crowd, and also provides a higher chance that all stakeholders will be available. Not to mention that people are in a hurry in the morning and don’t always have time for breakfast if they’re dropping kids off or fighting rush hour traffic. Knowing that you’ll have breakfast for them means one less thing they have to worry about as they start their day.
Pro tip: Don’t think you have to assemble an entire spread of breakfast choices! Trust us... after years of successful QBRs, the secret is bagels and coffee. Easy for you to transport, practically everyone loves them, and the price is great too!
If quarterly business reviews are too frequent, it’s okay to meet less often. You know your clients best, and it is important that you’re able to provide them with a valuable interaction, which isn’t always possible if you’re meeting too often. We do recommend that you try to meet a minimum of three times per year, because that keeps you top-of-mind and continues to build a stronger partnership.
Who Should Participate in QBRs?
Knowing that 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 in the actual meeting. This helps to ensure that the QBR is given the proper gravity.
Let’s take a closer look at who those stakeholders are that we mentioned earlier:
- Your Technical Account Manager: You want to 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: The person that your team interfaces with should be there because they have an understanding of your daily operations and is likely someone that you already have a rapport with. Depending on the size and structure of your client, this may be someone such as 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 will depend on the size and structure of each client, but we’re talking about someone along the lines of 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: Here we’re talking about people who are one level down from the Executives, perhaps 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 an explanation for why you would like them to attend when planning the meeting.
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 that 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 that 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. Instead, you want to come to the QBR meeting armed with data. Show real-world returns from prevented problems and increased uptime. This approach will help you to build trust and further your relationship as a trusted business advisor, rather than a role as just another vendor.
Additionally, make sure that during the meeting you address the various roadblocks and obstacles that must be overcome to deliver an ideal service. Identify areas where improvements can be made, and take a big picture strategic approach to problem-solving. Make sure that 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, there are some very specific considerations that must be included within a Quarterly Business Review. Your goal should be to provide a top-down view of operations, making sure that each discussion offers transparency and highlights the value that 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 the volume of tickets coming in. 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 that the customer is over utilizing the service desk or they may need a different structure for their support.
Your QBR should also address your SLA. Compare your agreement to the services that were 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, you’ll want to 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 that you’ve provided while being honest about how you can improve moving forward.
The technical review should make up the bulk of your Quarterly Business Review. It gives you the opportunity to put the value that 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.
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 will rarely be aware of everything that goes into endpoint management.
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 be covered in your report and meeting:
- Patch management. Because patches are the first line of defense for your clients, it’s important to showcase details about your patch management in your report. You should 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, that is an important fact that you should relay.
- 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? 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. Make sure that you set aside time in your QBR meeting to discuss your proactive efforts on endpoint security.
- Warranty Reporting. 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, you can’t do that by reeling off a list of techie terms, speeds and feeds. So 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! 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 consistently 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.
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 that you can regarding threats detected. Many organizations are compromised through employee email, and clients know this. Reassure them that you have airtight protections in place.
Keeping the subjects that 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 that 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 that 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.
Benefits of Quarterly Business Reviews
After ironing out the QBR process in our MSP, we found that there are quite a few results that it offered. To start, it offers a personal touch that clients will 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 different kind of touch point and an opportunity to actually explain things in detail or answer questions that wouldn’t come up from emailed reports.
Second, having several people there from each company makes it easy to pinpoint issues and receive input from multiple viewpoints. Additionally, you’ll have everyone there that you need to come to decisions for those problems. By ensuring that several high ranking employees within the company attend, you will dramatically improve your CSAT scores and ultimately, your customer retention.
By being thorough in your QBR, it allows your company to be proactive in dealing with issues. As you put together your report, you will likely identify several key areas where process improvements can be made. Then, you can go into the meeting having those suggestions on hand, or even implemented before the meeting even takes place.
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. Use that meeting to highlight the value that you’ve provided, identify areas for improvement, and establish your business as a trusted partner, rather than a simple 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: