Chief Financial Officer

VP of Finance and Compliance Management at Dearborn National Defines the “Customer-centric Finance Leader”

Claire Burke, Vice President of Finance and Compliance Management at Dearborn National, described the unique position of the finance leader in influencing customer centricity in their organization.

At the outset of her keynote presentation at the 2019 Finance Leadership Forum: The Evolving Role of the CFO, held in Chicago on May 16, Burke stated that she was going to focus in her presentation on how finance leaders can drive customer centricity throughout their company. “Customer centricity means putting the customer at the core of everything you do as an organization. It’s also a way of doing business that offers a great customer experience before and after the sale. Finally, and most importantly, customer centricity needs to be ingrained in the company culture. This means employees need to not only treat external customers with a high level of service but offer the same experience to their internal customers. This applies to every employee in the organization. The company needs to be managed on a day-to-day basis by customer-centric leaders, and that’s where we, as finance leaders, come into the picture,” she explained.

There are several things that customer centricity drives:

  • Ability to compete—“Competing on price alone isn’t always an option.”
  • Repeat business—“People want to do business with companies that meet or exceed their expectations.”
  • Customer loyalty—“Loyal customers are more forgiving if things don’t go their way.”
  • Increased profits

Today’s technology shapes customer experiences and expectations. Customers are better informed, better connected, and more demanding than they’ve ever been. Companies like Amazon and Zappos have taken customer experience to a whole other level. Even though many of us don’t directly compete with these companies, we’re competing with the services they’re providing to their customers, said Burke.”

The focus of the finance leader is primarily on strategy development and execution aimed at revenue growth and expense management, both of which drive profitability. Focusing on customer centricity addresses all three of these, Burke pointed out. “Customer centricity impacts profitability through revenue growth and controlling expenses. In terms of revenue growth, a customer-centric approach increases sales, enhances customer retention and loyalty, provides effective strategic pricing, and increases the value of the brand. A company that’s customer-centric is able to control expenses by maintaining a higher number of repeat customers as well as by driving process enhancements and new technology to better serve the customer and create more productive employees,” she said.

Burke mentioned a quote from McKinsey—41% of the CFO’s role isn’t in finance and accounting. As a result, adding value as a financial leader has dramatically changed. “We’re in a great position to influence and drive customer centricity throughout the organization. We can influence where we spend money as well as impact the role that customer centricity plays in strategy development. We can push the organization toward that. We also have the benefit of being able to see across the entire organization and to identify service gaps. We’re able to partner with other leaders to determine where to invest to better serve our customers. We’ve got that cross-functional view,” she explained.

“As a partner and advisor to other leaders in our company—in particular, the operations and sales leaders—we can them to work together to continually enhance the customer experience. We, as finance leaders, need to get to know our customers to understand their experience with our organization, their expectations, and existing service gaps,” Burke advised.

In closing, Burke pointed out that today’s finance leader needs to be a partner, advisor, strategist, innovator, and customer expert.

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