CFO’s role in Driving customer Centricity

Customers form the core of existence and Growth of any Business. The real focus on customer service called “Customer care” ushered in India with the advent of Telecom Industry from 1995. Foreign JV partners in Telcos continued to sharpen customer focus and slowly this concept gained traction with call centres mushrooming all over India, email based response, TAT and SLA were set. Almost all companies in service sector embraced this juggernaut and Indian customers were enthroned at a high pedestal. A new Industry, new set of professional, new GDP contributor and FDI contributor came to India.

Organisations that are committed to creating a culture that enables their people to generate customer insights, seek to genuinely understand their customers’ problems and beliefs. This is reflected in their approach to delivering value to both the customer and the business continuously, rather than at a project level.

“Merely satisfying customers will not be enough to earn their loyalty. Instead, they must experience exceptional service worthy of their repeat business and referral. Understand the factors that drive this customer revolution.”  – Rick Tate

Finance Professional in such companies extensively with senior customer care professionals and most of them has taken CFO position in Industry. This primer is for Finance professionals and CFOs in Industry where customer care is still at ideation stage and how they can work closely with CXOs to develop and execute customer strategy.  The CFOs possess a holistic 360 degree view business ecosstem and with deep technical competency can drive the Customer Agenda of the enterprise analytics effort. In this Context, CFOs must discharge Business partner role in modelling that spirit of innovation and willingness to adopt new ideas and new avenues. In a modern economy, every part of the organization is connected to finance. When the business runs efficiently and customers are happy, then only revenues can be maximised with resultant better bottom line, which translates to higher shareholder value, which is our
ultimate goal.

1. In the first place define the vision and mission of Customer care Dept within the overall corporate vision. This vision setting is very important for establishing the relation of every single customer at the fulcrum of corporate strategy and a well crafted mission will help align all stakeholders in the organisation in branding, product development, quality control, after sales service , channel partners and the finally the telecallers to deliver the desired product or service.

2. Develop transparent and robust mechanism for review of each customer complaint and feedback at various levels; and a solid process for incorporating them in product or service delivery strategy.

3. Empower the Customer service Head to provide necessary credits and reversals to customer. This small investment will pay off against damage to brand and enhance repeat footfall.

4. Define and allocate a clear budget for customer care dept. including capex investment in technology.

5. The CFO and his team should take time out and spend with field officers and even tele callers and thereby develop empathy as to how to handle irate customer and deficiency in value proposition. Such field experience will be immensely valuable to CSuite members in developing business and tactical strategy. Using analytics to dig out market information from buying patterns and other customer behaviours to really understand customer psyche and customer feedback are critical factors in designing strategies to create market differentiation that drives lasting and more profitable customers.

6. In a B2B business, CFO Team members should be encouraged to visit key customers along with BD or KAM Team to understand ever increasing customer demands and grievances. During telecom launch experience, I had ensured that each of our Business associate like vendors, auditors, valuers, advisors etc are encouraged to subscribe our services and I had developed a feedback mechanism and passed on same to our CTOs and CIOs. Such experiences can be used while allocating budgets and approving functional investment proposals.

7. Treat the Customer care and contact center expense as Growth Centre literally instead of a cost centre. Investment made in customer affinity will help build a scalable business model.

8. Develop a mechanism that complaints of certain dimensions are escalated to CFO and other CXO and Top management reviews customer feedback. This team approach will enthuse the front office and represent the company more confidently.

9. Continuously Interact with CFO and Industry peers about their customer centric strategies and weave back new ideas in the own ecosystem to build best in class Industry practices.

10. Integrate finance insight with business data to develop KPIs like Subscriber acquisition cost, Customer life time value, ROI on customer care, Balance score card parameter as applicable to Industry, sales return %,

As with any new way of working, the ability to develop customer insights will involve a learning curve as organisation and people mature. Along the way, capture insights in a structured manner to ensure they are meaningful, and most importantly actionable. We can and should, improve incrementally as the outcomes from previously implemented ideas become clearer and the breadth and depth of customer knowledge grows

Customer whether B2B or B2C needs tender care, constant value addition and swift resolution to their problems. CFO and Finance Professional should develop such cross functional skills and empathy and be a true Business Partner.

Sanjay Banka

CFO at Merino Group

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