The customer experience has long been an important, contributing factor to a company’s success. But now an organization’s entire structure and emphasis are transforming based on the importance of the customer. It’s no longer all about just selling products — it’s all about the customer and building strong, recurring relationships.
Traditionally the customer experience has been relegated to marketing, sales, and customer service. This new evolution of the customer-centric focus must reach every aspect of the organization and across the entire C-suite, including CFOs. For finance departments, focusing on the customer experience is now imperative, especially when it comes to revenue operations and contributing to those recurring customer relationships. And, to achieve that goal, CFOs must take the lead in a new “customer-first” role.
Howard Wilson, CFO of PagerDuty, a digital operations management company, shares how to make the shift to a customer-centric point of view and what a successful customer experience with finance really looks like.
As a finance executive, why is it important to put the customer at the forefront?
Customers now have a set of expectations for an integrated experience with a company, whether that’s through a digital platform, sales, or someone in finance. We used to always talk about the “back office versus the front office.” But those definitions don’t really hold true anymore. If your customer data is disconnected, then the brand suffers. For me, it’s important to deliver from a brand perspective and contribute to that connected customer experience.
In reality, what does that connected customer experience look like for the finance department?
If I have someone on my collections team speaking to a customer and following up on an unpaid invoice, the expectation is that they should know enough about the customer to answer their questions around their invoice. That could be regarding anything from the quote to the service or account manager.
Those sound like really simple things, but organizations battle with it. We make a concerted effort for our finance and accounting teams to interact with a customer in the same way an account manager would. That means having access to the customer’s information. Don't make a call if you don't have that information in front of you because you must operate with knowledge.
How do you know if you’re finding success in creating a great customer experience?
For our business, we have commercial transactions that happen online, and with assistance from sales reps. For both cases, there is a set of parameters that are important to me from a customer experience perspective. For online, I have to think about how to remove friction at every step and deliver the best transactional experience digitally for customers. If they’re working directly with a salesperson, we need speed and efficiency, such as quickly getting a quote or invoice that is clear, complete, and understandable.
At the end of the day, if customers are paying us for our service and we're getting high Net Promoter Scores, we're delivering a good customer experience. If customers aren't paying us or taking too long to pay, that means there's been something wrong in either the product or commercial experience that we’ve delivered to them.
As CFO, how do you get the data you need to make informed decisions about the business?
Ultimately as CFO, your role is about the allocation of capital. You can't make those decisions about investments if you're only looking at your financial reporting and recording because that's often looking in the rear-view mirror. They're not leading indicators. You need to look at the data upstream that maps to the customer’s lifecycle or journey with you from initial interest in your company, to becoming a customer, to how they use your product. That will point you to the areas that are important for your customers and their engagement with you. It’s the trends of customer engagement that become leading indicators to inform your investment decision process.
What is your one key piece of advice for other CFOs navigating the new “customer-first” role?
From a CFO's perspective, you need to think about your role as a change agent, changing the way that your company operates in order to deliver a better experience to your customers. And the way that starts is by driving change internally, starting with helping everyone in your Finance team, not see themselves as simply serving internal ‘customers’ but to see their connection ultimately to the external customer, and how they can champion the customer.