The CFO is CRM's Greatest Accomplice

The customer must be the first priority in a CFO's list of four C's.
Customer Experience

There's no time like the present. That sentiment rings true for companies looking to update financial processes to better align with customer experience. Finance, the department so often referred to as the "office of NO," must work in conjunction with the efforts their company makes to drive customer experience excellence.

According to a recent Forrester report, the world of corporate finance traditionally prioritizes three "C's": cost, compliance, and control. However, now is the time for to add a fourth "C" to the list: customer. The common understanding is that financial leaders are solely focused on enabling growth by identifying new ways to maximize revenue and create predictable revenue streams. So why is the customer important to finance, you might ask? Customers are where the money comes from.

CFOs have the potential to make a significant impact on the customer experience and should be allocating budget and spend to areas where they'll see the greatest customer satisfaction, which will ultimately improve their bottom lines. It's important for CFOs today to get involved in all aspects of their companies and have visibility into all departments in order to collectively mine for what makes customers happy, and then put the money behind it.

It's vital to invest in the areas that directly impact a positive customer index. Today, customers are calling the shots because they're more connected than ever before. No one seems to be able to choose a restaurant anymore without first seeking the guidance of Yelp or one of the other thousands of review sites and apps on the market. One poor customer experience now has the potential for amplification across an innumerable amount of social and digital channels and can be highly detrimental to a business. Therefore, companies today need to operate at what we call "customer speed," in order to keep up with today's hyper-connected consumer and ensure the best possible customer experience across the board.

Shifting to a more customer-centric approach can be a daunting task for CFOs, who have so often fixed their focus on numbers and reports. So I've outlined below a few strategies that CFOs can consider implementing to better manage their relationship with CRM:

Ensure the front and back offices are aligned: Every department within an organization touches the customer, from sales to finance to HR. The employees of a company are spending the most time with customers and can greatly influence how a customer perceives a brand. Therefore, alignment on all fronts ensures a strong foundation that filters into the rest of the business. From the CFO perspective, the seamless connection between business units and departments means improved workflow, which eliminates the duplication of efforts and ultimately reduces cost.

Implement customer-centric business tools: Giving employees a 360-degree view of the customer through cloud-based, mobile, and social tools will allow each business unit to improve upon their respective business goals. In the same way that these tools enhance the employee experience, they also enhance the customer experience because the level of visibility they can provide ensures that customers with questions aren't bounced around from department to department before finding the one person who can help them out.

Empower your own employees to succeed: A customer-centric CFO understands the need to invest in the tools that improve the experience of their employees. Effective front office and back office tools that streamline workflow and enhance the communication and efficiency across an entire team will improve the quality of an employee's experience at an organization, and happy employees equal happy customers. When employees are given the proper tools and resources, they are optimized for success and when they succeed, their output improves, which increases customer satisfaction. Additionally, acquiring and retaining quality talent is a primary challenge for organizations this year, according to the 2015 CFO Alliance report. CFOs must take a more prominent role in acquiring and inspiring the right human capital for their businesses to ensure consistent and high quality customer service.

A CFO's core competency is to protect and boost his business' bottom line. Knowing now that profitability and success of a business is directly dictated by customer experience, the customer must be the first priority in a CFO's list of four "C's"; cost, compliance, and control are all a byproduct of positive customer relationships.