Customer Care After a Merger

Apr 22, 2009 9:01 PM  By

Considering a merger or an acquisition to beat the recession? A lot of companies find that there’s strength in numbers these days.

But you have to think about how your customers will be affected, and how your contact center agents can help allay any concerns they might have.

Projections of a post-merger customer base are often overly rosy, says Kevin Redmon, senior director of Alvarez & Marsal Business Consulting. He states that a loss of 25% while not the norm, is certainly within the realm of possibility, particularly since customer reactions can be difficult to gauge.

This level of uncertainty, coupled with the fact that business relationships are often based on a combination of tangible and intangible factors, means that customer preservation strategies must be a top priority throughout the merger process. At a time when customers are overly cautious and need stability, all businesses need to tread with care.

Effective customer preservation strategies not only help mitigate consumer fears and risks, they can also pave the way for future revenue enhancement opportunities. Businesses therefore need to look to alleviate consumer unrest and ensure that they are delivering on their promises.

Here is a three-point plan that addresses these issues:

1. Provide proactive communication
Don’t underestimate the importance of communication when it comes to mergers and acquisitions. The way in which a company manages its customer relationships during a period of transition can be the difference between preserving and losing them.

Every customer will want to know what the merger means for them. For instance, will the company continue to offer the same types of products and services?

And will customers continue to receive what they need on time? What’s more, competitors may take the opportunity to steal away business.

2. Put the customer first
Businesses need to ride the wave by putting their customers first and focusing on providing high quality customer service. Being there for your customers and even pre-empting some of their concerns can be effective in not only mitigating risks and preserving your customers, but also in laying solid foundations for future revenue opportunities.

Where to start? You need to conduct a detailed analysis of the customer base and make realistic assumptions about the potential for churn. Once you’ve done this, you can focus on limiting customer turnover.

3. Arm your agents right the right info and messages
You need to put a specific plan in place for communicating an accurate, clear and consistent message proactively and directly with customers.

Any employee who deals with customers directly must be equipped to explain the impact and benefits of any changes as well as how business will continue to operate and handle questions, comments and complaints. Nothing will undermine a customer’s confidence faster than the disorganization or unresponsiveness of a business.

But while immediate communication with customers is critical, you have to keep it up with frequent information updates over time. A business process routing (BPR) strategy can use highly skilled and experienced employees throughout the enterprise to help deliver high standards of customer service, as well as enhance productivity at times when you need all hands on deck.

Businesses can pool all employee resources to execute customer preservation strategies, spanning front and back offices. This allows an organization to balance the workload of every type of interaction throughout the day, whether there is a peak or trough in the volume of incoming calls.

And in the long-term…
Today’s business gurus advocate going back to the core fundamentals that made company’s successful in the first place. And for many businesses, how they treat and serve the customer is at the heart of that philosophy.

Out-behaving your competitors is more important than outperforming them, especially in today’s Web-connected world, says Dov Seidman, CEO of consultancy LRN and author of How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything.

Seidman sums up the challenge facing organizations today: “How businesses do what they do, how they keep their promises, how they make decisions, how things really happen inside, how they connect and collaborate, how they engender trust, and how they relate to their customers is now their fate.”

Nicolas de Kouchkovsky is president of contact center software provider Genesys Labs.