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Inside the middle market today, it’s not uncommon to find a seasoned private equity executive serving as CFO of one of his or her firm’s portfolio companies. Such an arrangement provides the business leader with a coveted split-screen view that buffers the investor’s demands with real-world operational insights.
CFO Steve Coughran, who last year entered the C-suite at EMJ Corporation, of Chattanooga, TN, enjoys a similar split-screen of the business. However, this time the other half of CFO Coughran’s screen belongs not to a private equity executive but to a strategy adviser and author. ” I was initially hired by EMJ to help them to develop and execute a client experience strategy. I entered their offices and helped them to develop tools and processes to help its leaders understand how they could enhance the client experience, but as I got into the engagement, I realized that the corporate strategy was not aligned with the customer and that there was a big disconnect,” explains Coughran, who stepped into the CFO office a year ago following a number of changes inside EMJ’s finance function.
In the meantime, CFO Coughran’s strategy itch has seldom waned, and the split-screen CFO can still be found delivering keynote and seminar presentations for conferences across the country on topics focused on strategic growth, innovation, and financial management.
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CFO GUEST: Steve Coughran
COMPANY: EMJ Corp.
HEADQUARTERS: Chattanooga, TN
CFOTL: What metrics are you using to measure the customer experience?
Coughran: What we found is that there are metrics like the net promoter score out there and other similar customer-type metrics, but you really have to combine qualitative and quantitative metrics together to really understand where a customer is. What I mean by that is this: Take, for example, the net promoter score. A company just relies on a score where they say, “How likely are you to refer a friend to the company?” And then you measure it on a scale of 1 through 10, and you say, okay, the nines and tens, these are the champions. The ones through fours or fives are the detractors, and all the ones in the middle are the net promoters.
The danger of that is the one client or two clients who rank you very poorly; those people are screaming really, really loud. So if you take an average, or if you try to slice and dice this on a number scale, you may be paying attention to the wrong customers. The ones, the twos, the threes who have a horrible experience with your firm spread a lot of bad publicity and poison out in the marketplace.
What we try to do is instead of just getting caught up on a singular metric, we try to have constant check-in points. We ask authentic questions. We take this data and then we act upon it. I think that’s really the key. jb