In trying economic
times, it is more important than ever to marshal all your resources to
ensure that your customers remain loyal. In this edition of our
newsletter, we share the importance of, and practical approaches for,
the CFO listening to the voice of the customer and how the finance team
can have a direct impact on customer loyalty. So, in addition to looking
internally at departmental costs, engage the Finance team to improve the
customers' perception of and experience with your firm.
To the CFO: Listen to the Voice of the
It is not always a natural act for the CFO to have direct contact with
customers except perhaps as part of negotiations or contract
discussions. Sometimes it's just not a priority in the CFO's packed
schedule, and sometimes it's simply that customer contact is viewed
solely as the purview of sales and customer service. In this
environment, customer satisfaction feedback reaching Finance is indirect
at best. Many issues can be lost in translation or their implications
not fully appreciated.
I believe that this gap of customer contact with the CFO represents one
of the most significant lost opportunities for the company. Not only
does Finance directly impact the relationship with the customer through
policies such as credit limits, but it also defines the process for
moving basic transactions such as invoicing. The customer interface as
defined in Finance ultimately either enhances the relationship or
frustrates it. When the CFO listens directly to the voice of the
customer, it opens an opportunity to reshape policy and set in motion
improvements in business processes and systems that enhance customer
experience and satisfaction.
If the CFO gets direct answers from customers to the following kinds of
questions, he/she can directly impact the quality of customer
Could there be more appropriate and useful invoice
terms and financing alternatives?
Is the offer creating an obstacle to the purchasing
decision? For example, is a capital purchase less desirable to the
customer than, say, a subscription service?
Are accounting-related issues such as revenue
recognition having unintended consequences for the customer?
Is the sale transaction documentation clear,
understandable, and easy to process?
Is technology being used to advantage when interfacing
with the customer's ordering and payment process?
Are past-due payments the result of cash flow
problems, or do they really represent claims and disputes?
Are the people in credit and collections communicating
constructively and improving the relationship, or are they
increasing conflict and frustration?
Are onerous and possibly inconsequential contract
reviews and multiple revisions slowing down the deal process?
Is the sales compensation system potentially causing
dysfunctional activities? For example, are deals consistently being
pushed to the end of the quarter and being forced by last-minute
In most circumstances, it is not even necessary to ask the customer
about specific types of concerns. In a constructive and open meeting,
the burning issues impacting the customer will roll out almost
automatically. And they are often significant.
The critical first step for the CFO is to simply get customer meetings
on the calendar. This is easy when you can team up with a sales force or
distributors who can set up meetings; it's harder, but not impossible,
when the company has many small customers possibly using a direct
marketing or telesales business model. However, even if a customer
represents a small percentage of sales, he/she will very often reflect
the views and experiences of many other customers. It will generally be
clear that the messages repeat from one meeting to the next, forming a
consistent picture. The information you get from these sessions can be
I would like to suggest a general framework for meeting customers that
not only gets the most information, but sets a constructive tone. Since
CFOs don't regularly show up on a customer's doorstep, there is a
striking opportunity to have a positive impact. The CFO's presence alone
sends a huge message to the customer that the company values its
Here are some suggestions for making the most of the CFO/customer
Go in with a solid understanding of the customer's
business and history, including level of purchases from your firm,
payment record, receivable aging, and any known issues or complaints
they have raised in the past.
Explain that you are there because the company values
the relationship. You, as CFO, want to establish a solid contact and
be of help if you can.
Consider whether your role puts you in a position to
help the customer locate new business opportunities.
Explore whether your group could be buying the
customer's products and services in order to further cement the
Openly ask if there are any problems or issues from
the customer's perspective.
Listen sincerely and carefully and get as many
specifics as you can. Take any feedback without explaining or trying
to defend the situation.
Thank the customer for honesty and commit to following
up on any issues. Then follow through.
If necessary, commit to a follow-up meeting with the
customer's staff to resolve issues in depth.
It is inconceivable that a series of CFO and customer meetings
---especially if this is a new form of contact--- will not result in key
insights into the way customers perceive your company. These insights
need to lead to actions which will improve the process and consequently
the customer experience. Issues that are impediments to great customer
relationships should be carefully explored, cost/benefits determined,
remediation plans developed, and improvements made.
Clearly, investments in improving the customer experience need to be
weighed against other priorities. But initiatives which can lead to
increased revenue need serious consideration and should get a high
priority. Unless the company is on a track to attract and retain
customers, all other internal process investments are questionable.
Listening to the voice of the customer is key to improving both the top
and bottom lines, and the CFO is in a unique position to capitalize on
+ To the CFO: Listen to the Voice of the
If you have received this newsletter from a friend
and would like to subscribe:
here to subscribe
View previous newsletters
Some Words From Our Customers
Check out what a customer
had to say about his experience with Customer
has been instrumental in making the Sophos customer survey program a
reality. Their years of customer experience were instrumental in
analyzing critical customer feedback allowing us to take swift and
decisive action in a very short period of time."
VP Sales & Operations, Americas
About Customer Centricity, Inc.
We strengthen overall company performance through
better service delivery and management.
We boost efficiencies in front-line customer service and technical support
teams, order processing, fulfillment, field service, logistics and other
key operations functions.
In short, we align the resources of your organization to exceed your
customers' expectations in the most effective and efficient manner
See What Our Customers Say