Bob Purcell is CFO of Billtrust. Views are the author's own.
The financial leader has always been responsible for managing a company’s finances and ensuring it remains profitable. But as today’s finance professionals face an uncertain economy, a digital arms race and pressures from the next generation of buyers, CFOs have to shift towards areas that have been historically outside of their purview. One of these most notable areas is customer experience, or CX.
It’s no secret that customer experience, or CX, has grown in importance – especially in the B2B industry that’s traditionally been considered a CX laggard compared to its consumer counterpart. Indeed, in B2B, the former team-leading question “what would the customer want?” has quickly transformed into “what do our customers need?” and for good reason. According to Deloitte Digital research, B2B buyers are on average 34% more likely to buy and 32% more likely to renew a contract with B2B leading suppliers that master customer experience.
A significant reason why CX is growing in value in B2B is because of the industry’s new generation of decision-makers. These professionals, who are our next financial leaders, grew up accustomed to speedy and convenient consumer experiences. Digital experiences that differ from those that B2B is traditionally used to. They’re passionate about delivering and receiving quality customer experiences. So it’s perhaps not surprising that when Billtrust asked 500 finance professionals, including current CFOs and those on track to take the position in the future, what initiatives and weaknesses in their operations they plan to address when they take office, nearly half of future CFOs chose “customer satisfaction”.
CX’s Exponential Impact on the B2B World
Much has been written about CX’s impact on customer loyalty and retention. It’s why it’s always been under the microscope of marketers for years. But when an action drives retention, it drives revenue, too. Which is why it makes sense that CFOs are getting involved with CX.
After all, Bain & Company research proves that B2B CX leaders have average higher margins than their competitors, with reductions of 10% to 20% in cost to serve. Meanwhile, studies have found that companies identified as CX leaders generated returns that were nearly three times greater than CX laggards.
Of course, we can expect these numbers to grow even more once the B2B world welcomes in the next generation of professionals. For now though, with CFOs up against an unpredictable economy for the foreseeable future, a focus on strengthening the customer experience can help them drive higher revenue and secure new customers, while helping them retain existing ones.
A Call for Augmenting B2B Relationships
Of course all of this isn’t to say B2B has had a bad history with CX. But these relationships are starting to take new shape. As digital innovations continue to rise and economic uncertainty simultaneously looms, CFOs should be strengthening their e-relationships in order to retain customers and maintain their churn. But what does this mean for CFOs?
Today’s financial leaders need to both lead their teams as well as align their goals with CX-centric approaches. By asserting focus on developing long-term B2B relationships, CFOs will simultaneously be able to elevate their CX. Understanding changes in the landscape is important, but making decisions to account for them in a way that strengthens customer relationships is more critical than ever before. Because of this, there’s never been a better time for CFOs to get involved with elevating their organizations’ CX. After all, strong relationships lead to increased efficiency, cost reductions and enable additional resource sharing.
Accelerating Cash Flow Through CX
Increasing cash flow has always been – and always will be – a top priority for CFOs. Luckily for CFOs, there’s one particular action a company can take to simultaneously elevate the customer experience and increase cash flow. And it falls right inside their purview: optimizing the payments experience.
B2B payments has undergone an enormous digital transformation in recent years. In fact, paper check usage in B2B recently fell to an all-time low of 33% according to the Association for Finance Professionals (AFP). But even as the industry has ushered in technology to speed up the movement of cash, many organizations are still struggling to transition away from highly frustrating and manual processes. A fact that’s not only threatening their financial health, but the B2B buyer-supplier relationship.
For example, there’s a severe disconnect between the systems used by accounts payable (AP) and accounts receivable (AR) teams today. Simply put, most AR teams lack real-time integration with their customers’ AP portals, which is slowing down productivity and cash flow and creating a poor CX. CFOs will need to fix this if they want to maintain the financial health of their organization and prioritize customer satisfaction. The best way to do this is by transitioning their organization to digital lockboxes, an electronic address businesses use to receive payments via ACH, credit card or wire transfer.
Digital lockboxes offer B2B organizations a faster, cheaper and more secure method of processing payments and invoices. They do this by capturing payment instructions when an invoice is approved and moving the money to the supplier based on its payment preferences. It obtains the remittance, and presents it in a format compatible with the company’s AR process. For the B2B space, this is game changing, holding the potential to rid the industry of the frustrating inefficiencies that have hindered supplier-buyer relationships and interfered with access to capital for decades.
Though CX traditionally isn’t a CFO responsibility, financial leaders have always had the power to dramatically influence customer relationships through the payments processes they put in place at their organization. As a supplier’s ability to offer CX-centric solutions to their customers will continue to have a huge impact on a business’ bottom line, there’s never been a better time for CFOs to get involved.