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Focus on the customer to drive a healthier bottom line

INSIGHT ARTICLE

In business, customers are everything. That’s why the modern chief financial officer (CFO) needs to have his or her finger on buyer sentiment as well as the bank balance. And even though CFOs have many more tools at their disposal today than in the past, bringing the entire customer journey into focus is still a challenge. They need a technology strategy that covers some key areas.

How CFOs came to know more

Years ago, CFOs were more focused on the financials. What they were able and accustomed to learning about customers was extremely limited. However, as they began implementing software systems and assuming a larger role over information technology (IT), they were suddenly in a position to look beyond the balance sheets and income statements.

For the first time, they could analyze customers by geography, product, market segment, as a percentage of sales and in any number of other ways.

Following customers anywhere

Even with more advanced data collection systems, CFOs still face obstacles on the way to fully understanding customers. For example, thanks to the internet and globalization, customers are more widely dispersed. Any system for collecting customer data must take into account that buyers can live in any city or time zone, speak any language and make purchases in multiple currencies. It also needs to be able to deliver analytics in a common reporting language and currency.

Addressing a mobile world

Mobility is a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, mobile devices can deliver rich customer data from employees who are closest to buyers, and from the buyers themselves through purchases made on smartphones and tablets.

On the other hand, getting data from mobile devices into the information ecosystem of the company can be complex. To get a 360-degree view of customers, the CFO has to have a system that integrates mobile data into enterprise systems.

Busting through the information silos

Customers engage with companies at various times through multiple departments, whether it’s a sale, invoice, order, return, support ticket or complaint. If different databases record those interactions (even those with third-party call centers or helpdesks), it will be difficult for the CFO to obtain an accurate customer overview. CFOs need to build integrated ecosystems that combine data from departments, databases, applications and external providers into one location.

Delivering omnichannel experiences

Today’s buyers interact with companies at various times on different channels, including email, mobile, social media and the web. They want a consistent experience—access to their account, select discounts or pre-negotiated pricing—whether they’re speaking with a salesperson on the phone or making a purchase via an e-commerce website. For that level of consistency, companies need a unified information system that keeps employees and customers on the same page all the time.

Customers are everywhere, their goals and objectives are varied, and they engage with companies in a multitude of ways. To understand them in a manner that pays dividends to the firm, CFOs need nimble business information systems. While legacy IT systems have some of the capabilities required, they often don’t have the flexibility to easily extend into new sales channels and customer interactions. Those capabilities are best served up in the cloud.

For more information about how to delight customers, read RSM’s white paper Why CFOs must lead the charge to modernize the business—now

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