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Completing mergers and acquisitions (M&A) is a complex process that can take months or even years. Maintaining a high-functioning contact center to support superior customer experiences during that period is essential to a successful transition.
Economists say that tax reform, a more relaxed regulatory climate and growing cash reserves have fueled near-record levels of M&A activity over the past 18 months. However, analysts also note that more than half of these deals won’t generate the anticipated value and ultimately will be considered failures.
Poor communication is often a contributing factor when deals don’t meet expectations. Very often, organization leaders become so absorbed in negotiations, financing, integration and other aspects of the deal-making process that they lose focus on the customer experience.
The Customer’s View
While the integration of two companies requires an immense amount of effort, leadership must understand that it can be an uncomfortable time for customers. Will they still be able to get the products and services they need at the prices they’ve come to expect? Will customer support be affected? Do they need to find another supplier to ensure their own operations aren’t disrupted?
Customer churn can increase significantly during the M&A process. According to a PwC study of consumer during an M&A event, 20 percent reported they had a very negative or somewhat negative experience and 17 percent reported they did less business with the company or stopped doing business altogether. Eighty percent said that companies don’t focus enough on customer experience during the transition.
Communication and customer service during the process directly impacts customer retention following a merger. Since the contact center is the hub for customer interactions, it must be operating at peak efficiency. As frontline company representatives, contact center agents can help limit attrition by effectively supporting existing customers, addressing any concerns or questions, and communicating the benefits the merger is expected to create.
To ensure effective customer experiences during the process, organizations should create a communications plan at the outset. The plan should anticipate specific issues and concerns customers are likely to have and establish messaging to address them. There should be a closed-loop feedback system to ensure that customer concerns or complaints reach the right manager and are resolved promptly.
Assess Your Operations
Putting the plan in action requires that organizations fully understand the state of their contact center before the merger process begins. A pre-merger assessment can help identify strengths and weakness, how customer interactions are managed and how issues are resolved. Managers and advisers must assess and quantify risk, and then look for ways to improve operations in a way that could add business value.
An assessment can be comprehensive and cover all aspects of operations or targeted to specific areas. Items typically assessed include but are not limited to organizational structure, workflows, scheduling, staff utilization, cost per transaction, quality assurance, performance, customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction. An assessment will often involve interviews with managers and agents, call monitoring, reviews of call reports, technology analysis, and an examination of financial results.
The assessment will also serve as a valuable baseline for post-merger operations. It can be used to help set staffing levels, policies and procedures that will be needed following the transition to support either the integration of separate centers or the continued operation of geographically dispersed centers.
Although M&As require significant research, planning and effort, organizations can’t afford to lose focus on their customers. Customers are likely to be wary about the change in the first place, and any negative customer experiences during the transition can drive them away. Effective communication during the process is the key to maintaining continuity and reducing the risk of customer attrition. A contact center assessment can help ensure you’re prepared to keep your customers satisfied.