The Two-Step in Customer Service Mergers

In Texas, everyone must go through the rite of passage of learning the Texas Two-Step. And if you are like me, born and raised in the Lone Star State, you learn quickly that a basic guide to mastering the dance is to move in a “quick-quick-slow-slow” rhythm. This approach of “quick then slow” turns out to be a very useful guide in mergers and acquisitions, especially when addressing your customers.

Customer retention is usually a significant factor in a deal’s value, which makes the transition of customer service a very sensitive operation. We have found that the two-step framework can help make a good first impression on customers and keep those relationships moving in sync.

During the planning stages, there are steps that should be slated for quick execution. These items are launched on or as close to Day 1 as possible:
  • Step 1: Communicate to customers. Using as many channels and platforms as possible, tell your customers what the merger or acquisition means to them, what they should expect, what the benefits are, and that their well-being is your top priority. This is not just public announcements broadcast to all stakeholder groups, but highly targeted techniques that include talking points and scripted responses to give to your customer service reps. They should be able to speak with confidence and calm any concerns a customer may have.
  • Step 2: Communicate to employees. It’s important to remember that when customers speak to the reps, they are speaking to the new company. As such, any dissatisfaction on the part of the rep has the potential to come across on a phone call or chat session and register with the customer. Companies need to let employees know what decisions have been made, what decisions are outstanding, and a timeline of when actions are planned to take place. As we have said before: Employees don’t necessarily dislike change; what they fear most is uncertainty.
Mergers and acquisitions usually involve consolidation of customer service operations, including call centers. This step requires careful planning and takes time. Keep in mind, customers have developed expectations over the years and any disturbance in these interactions may be taken as a negative sign of things to come in the newly merged company. Your job is to minimize this possibility.
  • Step 1: Although moving a customer service function may feel mechanically easy (“all we have to do is just put the reps from the other company on our phones”), there is good reason for companies to be deliberate and methodical in this change. Carefully consider all the touch-points you have with customers, lay the groundwork, and address their concerns ahead of time through a well-thought-out plan.
  • Step 2: Consider customer touch-points that aren’t readily apparent. For example, one of our clients told us about a customer who needed help and spoke to a person in an admin role. This individual usually wasn’t involved in one-on-one customer interactions, but she was very polite and able to solve the customer’s problem quickly. Not surprisingly, from that day forward, the customer called only that specific person.

Bill Gates famously said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” While acquiring companies aren’t always able to find and accommodate every single customer interaction that has been established over the years, taking and communicating methodical actions goes a long way in mitigating any bad sentiment. Once you’re on the dance floor, following a framework like the Texas Two-Step is a good place to start.

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