Whether it’s dealing with the operational and legal aspects of market expansion, selecting the right financial technology systems, or negotiating terms with an ecosystem of different business partners, finance and accounting teams have to wear a lot of hats today. This is especially true for companies that do business with other businesses internationally where the financial, legal, and operational challenges all get multiplied.
Add the “ensuring a great customer experience” hat to that rack. A lot of the decisions finance and accounting teams make increasingly have a direct impact on customers too. Invoicing processes, payment methods, and cybersecurity measures all influence how customers experience a company and how loyal those customers choose to be as a result.
With that in mind, here are three ways CFOs and their teams can positively impact the customer experience and expand their influence at their companies:
1. Modernize Your Billing and Payment Systems
Business customers expect the same convenient digital billing and payment methods they experience as consumers. But many B2B enterprises have not kept up. For them, payments are almost an afterthought, separate from sales, marketing, and customer service. These companies control the payment process mostly by limiting customers' payment options, without a thought to how they could help modernize the business.
The advance of digital and mobile in our consumer lives is starting to force these companies to adapt. Seamless digital transactions are becoming a minimum business requirement and an integral part of the customer experience. Businesses can no longer worry about how the customer will pay after the fact. It has to be part of the overall value proposition they offer up front, or they risk alienating a loyal customer base.
Part of the payment experience is also reflected in the invoice—making sure 100% of invoices sent are done so accurately and in a timely manner. This may seem obvious, but it’s difficult in reality for many companies to deliver on, and a critical link to getting paid on time.
2. Give Your Customers the Choice to Pay the Way they Want
Most of your business customers would likely prefer to pay you electronically – the same way they pay bills in their personal life. This may be by bank transfer, credit card, or even virtual card. You can’t anticipate every possible method, e.g., not everyone is equipped to accept crypto, but the point is to try to give them the option to pay you the way that works best for them – in generally available methods.
This applies even more so to international customers who generally prefer to be billed and pay in their local currency. Many companies still bill their international customers in the biller’s own currency and then rely on international wire and bank transfers for payment, creating a lot of unnecessary cost and complexity – for all involved.
Hidden fees and unpredictable FX rates cost your customers money. And slow, unpredictable payment processing times hurt your cash flow. Country-specific regulatory restrictions and anti-money laundering (AML) considerations add additional complexity and costs, especially when there are multiple parties involved in the transaction. Addressing this challenge may require some changes to your payment systems, but the ability to bill and accept payments in the customer’s local currency creates a lot of convenience and cost savings for both of you.
3. Prioritize Payment Security
Finance professionals are just as worried about cybersecurity issues these days as they are accounting-related ones. Flywire recently commissioned an independent research study of 300+ finance professionals working at mid-market organizations. Some 91% of those interviewed cited cybersecurity threats as a top challenge, including fraud (90%), being hacked (88%), and money laundering (85%).
Their concerns are valid. The pandemic set off a huge increase in cybersecurity activity as remote work and the increased use of digital devices created new opportunities for bad actors. In addition, sophisticated new email phishing scams challenge AR and AP teams to discern valid requests for payments and refunds from fraudsters.
Cybersecurity should be a top priority for every CFO and finance team. Not only do these threats create big financial and legal risks, they also can have a huge impact on brand reputation and influence potential customers’ decisions on whether to work with a company.