Meeting customer needs is mission-critical for the success of every company. CFOs have different methods available to gauge customer needs, including direct interaction and intermediary data gathering. CFOs also know it’s important not only to listen, but also to lead. With a “know your customers” mindset, product and service decisions can be made with greater impact. At this year’s MIT Sloan CFO Summit, we look forward to exploring how the customer-centric CFO keeps a focus on identifying and addressing the needs of their end users.
When and how to innovate an existing product and/or extend into a new market? Time to sunset a current capability? The success of these decisions ultimately lies with the customer. Whether through direct interaction with customers, evaluating NPS scores, holding focus groups or careful financial analysis, CFOs know the best route to success incorporates customer centricity into strategic planning, financial decision-making and resource allocation.
How to determine customer needs is company-specific, and should include a combination of listening and leading. For some CFOs, interacting with customers is integrated into the sales cycle, for others they may obtain customer feedback as part of a user conference, advisory council or other meetings. Indirect customer feedback can include organized surveys, social media monitoring and, of course, analysis of current product financials.
While it is important to listen to customer feedback, it’s also important to lead. As Steve Jobs famously commented, “Some people say, ‘Give the customers what they want.’ But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do.”
CFOs can bring a unique insight with their connection to both the customer and the financial results of company decisions. Bridging the front- and back-end, with a keen eye on the customer, is an essential component of company success.