Many organizations today are making big investments in business processes that start and finish before a customer ever buys something from you.
Identifying new prospects, converting them to leads and offering them the right products and services is all quite important. By all means: Make those investments! Your marketing and sales success depends on it.
But while your relationship with a prospect begins when you first engage them in the sales process, they don’t become an actual paying “customer” until they buy something from you.
It’s only then that your future with that customer formally begins.
So, what you do in the early days and weeks of that relationship to better serve them and meet their needs is critical. It lays the foundation for how you and that customer will interact across the many parts of your business moving forward.
In most instances, this early-stage process is called “order-to-cash” (O2C). At Sutherland, we prefer to call the process “customer-to-cash” (C2C). Why? Because we believe our approach is really all about the customer (not the “order”). And we want to make it clear that business relationships start — and end — with customers.
It’s like the old saying: “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.” C2C is that first impression.
Why Optimize Your C2C Process?
The individual functions that make up the end-to-end customer-to-cash process can naturally be improved by integrating the available technologies and digital solutions. Streamlining the C2C process nearly always cuts costs, saves time, minimizes errors and ensures that performance data can make a bigger impact.
Reducing days sales outstanding (DSO), eradicating revenue leakage and better handling deductions and disputes (DDO) are all metrics that must be prioritized. And getting real results on each matters — often to the tune of millions of dollars in reduced operating expense and increased working capital. This can mean revenue acceleration and growth!
But the goal here is not just about efficiency and cost savings. It’s about delivering high-quality experiences to customers at a critical time. And doing so in a way that empowers your brand to get to better know your customer along the journey — whether that customer is an end consumer or another business.
Customers that think like consumers expect a trading relationship to be simple and self-exploratory. However, most businesses are organized by functions and don’t have a simplified way for consumers to engage with the right resources or understand next steps.
Why C2C Matters
From first impression to long-term relationship, the following table outlines how the process fits together for most organizations. A customer-centric mindset can make all the difference—instead of simply focusing on what happens at each step, the table identifies customer experience expectations along the way.
|What happens||What customers want…|
|Customer acquisition||Acquiring a new customer||Personalized experience|
|Order management and fulfillment||Orders processed based on individual requirements||Accurate, on-time delivery whether physical or digital inventory|
|Credit||Automated credit management||Real-time credit analytics|
|Invoicing and payment||Accurate, timely invoicing and payment processing||Correct and convenient payment options|
|Accounts receivable||Assure timely collection||Helpful digital reminders|
|Chargebacks and reconciliations||Cash flow disruption||Statement access, empathetic approach to resolving disputes|
|Reporting and data management||Performance tracked across processes, analytic insights||Convenient, real-time, multi-channel access to status, ETA, exceptions|
C2C activities impact operations throughout the organization — areas like supply chain, inventory management and resource planning. Problems in one area can easily lead to problems in another.
And, of course, invoicing and accounts receivable determine a business’s cash inflows. Making it easier for your customer’s AP department to remit on time will positively impact your working capital.
How to Grow Both CX and Working Capital
C2C technology and process enhancements address pain points that result in revenue leakage, lack of visibility across revenue streams and customer frustration with complex invoicing.
What you must do, however, is transform processes — not just address individual problems. Only then are you better able to respond to the unknowns of marketplace changes. And you must do that in a more customer-centric way.
What stops so many businesses from improving their customer-centricity? Often, it’s not having the tools and capabilities needed to evolve C2C processes while undergoing complex strategic, business model and operational changes.
To overcome those challenges, you need:
Domain and functional experience to establish a cost-efficient, technology-powered, continuously improving C2C operation
Greater accuracy for better working capital management
Better visibility for improved decision making
Digitized ops that make proactive end-to-end customer management possible
A customer journey map that documents interaction points to make informed transformation priorities and differentiated experiences
Unfortunately, for most organizations that’s a tall order. What can businesses do to be better prepared for market conditions while better understanding their customers?
How to Optimize Your C2C Process
The good news? Sutherland can provide the playbook to navigate business model transitions by helping clients redesign their processes and provide an integrative C2C solution that leverages industry-leading tech and functional expertise.
We can help you improve DSO and cash flow by reducing revenue leakage, improving working capital management and establishing cost-efficient, automation-enabled back-office operations.
A streamlined and customer-centric C2C process will drive both customer satisfaction and customer loyalty, maximizing profitability over the long term. Customer loyalty leads to growth, and happy customers are the lifeblood of every business.