The old days of a CFO being a glorified accountant are over. No longer is an effective CFO working as an afterthought to the rest of the crucial decisions and processes throughout a company. Our role as an outsourced CFO to businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area is at the forefront of this movement.
A recent post in FEI (a leading source of financial news and analysis) makes the strong argument that CFOs need to be more directly involved with all aspects of the customer lifecycle:
“From the top down, there needs to be more involvement through the customer lifecycle, considering the influence customer experience has on driving long-term growth, increasing customer retention rates and profitability in this emerging business model.”
The customer lifecycle for both large companies as well as small businesses, is growing in importance, as more and more businesses are moving away from one-off transaction or product sales and towards recurring services. Yet, even as this business trend accelerates, there is a large, dysfunctional information and awareness gap between sales (e.g., customer experience) and finance:
“This should be top of mind for CFOs, considering the influence customer experience and customer renewals have on driving long-term growth, increasing customer retention rates and profitability in this emerging business model.”
A growing number of CFOs believe that they need to be more integrated into the processes and decision-making throughout the customer lifecycle.
“More than just managing financials, the role of the CFO has grown into that of a business enabler. The CFO’s job is ensuring the success of varying business functions within an organization. This means not just challenging every single move for the sake of keeping to budget, but maximizing the use of assets. Finding the balance is tricky. Ultimately the CFO needs to be an enabler of success while optimizing the use of resources.
“The CFO must take more actions directly connected to the customer, and take factors outside the immediate organization into consideration to ensure he or she can help in a balanced way. This requires listening to different departments in a given organization and coalescing that insight with customer feedback, needs and pain points. The CFO role has become the intersection of the information highway that now cuts through organizations. Sales, marketing, delivery and support should all be taken into account at the inception of any decision—it doesn’t suffice to view the numbers after the fact.”
While there has been a revolution with front-end, customer-facing tools (e.g. Salesforce) that help companies with understanding and managing their customers, the backend tools that finance typically use have are not as customer-focused due to their emphasis on accounting objectives. Today’s CFO needs to be able to integrate the various data sources to provide an enhanced, insightful perspective on any given customer.