Every good CFO knows that influencing her organization takes more than adequately managing the finances or thinking strategically. It requires a broad view of the company as a whole and finding even the smallest and most unlikely elements to change and improve that will affect the bottom line.
In a recent survey conducted by CFO Research, 126 senior finance executives of major U.S. corporations revealed one of the most neglected, but apparent places a company can cut costs, gain revenue and have a positive impact on the overall finances is in post-sales. Also known as the retention stage of the customer journey, this is where many customers drop out or turn away from a brand. But with just a little more effort and a few important tactics, any company can prevent losses and enhance the finances.
The survey showed that 82% of CFOs say their company could realize meaningful financial benefit from improving customer satisfaction with post-sales service. They believe this area of business is a critical competitive differentiator. To achieve optimal post-sales satisfaction methods, a CFO can drive the following techniques and encourage a company to take full responsibility for this portion of the sales cycle.
The main obstacle cited by 50% of survey respondents was prioritizing and coordinating post-sales activities. While it is clear who owns certain tasks within the sales cycle, retention is something that often gets lost in the chaos. An evaluation of the sales cycle showed that many professionals are unsure of who should really take ownership of the retention phase with 29% saying customer support, 26% saying sales and 26% saying marketing are primarily responsible.
This nearly even split doesn’t have to be a contentious point, but rather a sign that an entire organization should contribute to satisfying customers post purchase. And even though departments outside of finance are involved, a CFO can still lead by example by encouraging strong communication. An EVP of finance said in his survey response, “Both changing the culture to be more service-oriented and improving the communication process so post-sales follow-ups are unique to the individual who is utilizing the product could lead to increased cross-sell opportunities.”
When customer support receives feedback about a purchase, they can relay the message to marketing who can then reach out with additional information. And sales can get involved to upsell based on a customer’s needs. When every department is dedicated to ensuring a smooth and suitable post sale, the customer is more likely to return for more. Communication can eliminate errors and thoroughly address how to convert a prospect to an advocate. An integrated customer experience fostered by communication is something 88% of companies say improve customer retention and brand loyalty.
To cut costs in the post-sales phase, CFOs must look to customer-centric activities and other more technical aspects of pleasing customers. The key is to get specific in improving certain processes and really aim at the details of how things are completed and could be streamlined. As one CFO put it in the survey, he needs “defined objectives to improve service and reduce cost, as well as accountability for making progress in meeting those objectives.” He is just one of the 35% who require better execution of processes to improve customer satisfaction and post-sales operations.
The survey also showed that 37% of CFOs target customer call center operations, and 33% look at the fulfillment of service level agreements. They will also try to reform customer training and support, repairs and replacements, and inventory and warehousing. These are the most obvious areas to improve with small changes and financial adjustments. Finding any type of inefficiencies or errors can rectify it for the future.
Another way to improve specific processes and ultimately affect customer satisfaction is to improve the data that is collected and analyzed. Obtaining this better data about customers and service events is seen as beneficial by 41% of the survey respondents. With more insightful information, CFOs can make more informed decisions about where to effect change. Data can also reveal the very focused problems in any processes slowing down or hindering success in post-sales.
Change from Within
CFOs who want to create change surrounding the finances and costs of their organization can work with other departments to improve the post-sales experience for customers. Identifying this single phase of the customer journey is a good starting point that opens doors to other avenues of creating significant impact on the bottom line. Beginning with good communication and targeted processes while examining the value and effectiveness of data can positively influence post-sales and the rest of the company.