Everyone’s heard the phrase “the customer is always right.” You may have even used it a time or two in your life. In today’s customer-focused world, where personal expectations are quickly applied to the business world (free shipping anyone?), it’s more important than ever to take a customer-centric approach.
Historically, businesses were organized around the supply chain. Companies had to get products and goods to the market in the fastest way possible because demand was outweighing supply. Since the 1990s, however, this has shifted to become the opposite. Demand is scarce. That has caused businesses to reorganize their focus onto the customer. But simply saying the customer is important or “always right” isn’t the same as having a customer-focused organization. To truly be customer-focused, you have to start from the top down.
The customer and their needs should be at the center of every decision an organization makes. Doesn’t matter if you’re a company in its infancy or a far-reaching enterprise. The first and last question posed when making any business decision should be “does this help our customers?” Understanding who your customers are, what they want and how you can best deliver it to them is of the utmost importance.
As a CFO, it’s my role to strive for a more customer-centric approach. I have a duty to make sure this question becomes a part of every discussion.
It’s equally important that this focus on the customer extends to include the culture of the entire organization. Your employees must become people-oriented. Sometimes that can mean training or re-training employees to think in a new way. Other times, just having a strong voice from the leadership team – in this case, a CFO who always interjects the customer’s needs into a discussion – may be enough to push future discussions and decisions to where you need them to be.
As a part of understanding customers better, the CFO role can take the lead in ensuring the organization is sharing information and enabling a truly holistic view of each customer. What patterns emerge when sales data is combined with customer service data? What about expense data? What can we as an organization learn about how to better serve our customers? How do we find our most profitable and fastest growing customers? How are their needs changing over time? Are we doing everything we can to match those changes?
This kind of analysis is impossible without a cross-company view. And no one is better positioned to lead that customer-centric effort than the CFO.
You’ve grown a greater understanding of who your customers are and what they want. Awesome. So what do you do about it? The next step is making sure your company’s resources are positioned correctly to deliver for them in a timely fashion.
This could be something as simple as making sure customers receive important information on a timely and continual basis. Or it could be something more critical to the business. Perhaps adapting or evolving product lines to be in line with changing customer needs. Maybe better understanding what customers can and can’t afford – and then restructuring pricing models accordingly.
Failing to understand your customers’ evolving needs over time is more than short-sighted. It’s damaging to your business, and can result in lower customer retention. If customers don’t think you understand what they need to succeed, then they won’t stick around.
A lack of understanding would also hurt efforts to sign new customers. In the market, your organization would appear behind-the-times. There’s also a high probability you’d have bad word-of-mouth from disappointed current customers and those who jumped ship.
Better understanding customers leads to better relationships. As any CFO knows, good customer relationships are the key to any business’ success. If you know what keeps your customers up at night, then you can help them solve those problems and be successful. And their success equals your success.
We’ve been in the reimbursement space for long enough to see the needs of our customers change, and to adapt our products to those needs. More and more, our customers are looking for simplification, for easy access to the information they need to analyze and process reimbursements. Taking that information to heart, our team focused on delivering the Motus Platform.
With millions of data points, the Motus Platform enables our customers with the information they need to reimburse their employees fairly and accurately. We also expanded our products to provide solutions around vehicle reimbursement, driver safety, device and remote work reimbursement, managed mobility services and living cost data.
Through the years we’ve found that our customers’ needs extended beyond vehicle reimbursement to the challenges our newer products now solve for. No two customers are the same, but their needs often overlap. By focusing on solutions that will help our customers we’ve strengthened our relationships and our own company brand.
If you read this and feel that you’re not giving customer needs their proper due within your organization, but you’d like to get started, then there’s no time like the present. Start by asking whether a specific decision or move fits the needs of your customers – and whether the organization can define exactly what those needs are today. You’ll be surprised how quickly a customer focus rolls out from there.
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