As businesses evolve, some get stronger and some weaker. It is not usual to see the stronger buy out or merge with the weaker organizations.
Often the focus of management is on the financial aspects of the merger, and retaining customers from both organizations. But all parts of an organization need to work on integration. Customer service is a prime example.
Integration Issues to consider
1. Will the existing customer service organizations in both organizations continue to operate separately? Or will they be merged? What will customers be told if they call the wrong number, or use the wrong problem submission form on line?
2. Will the hours of operation and the terms and conditions remain the same?
a. Hours and Days of service. What if one organization provided 7/24 and the other only 9-5 on weekdays? How will this be handled?
b. Is service free or does the customer have a warranty period or fee based offering. Will the offerings stay the same or be combined?
3. If the two organizations that are integrating have common customers, who will explain the new support structure to them?
4. Who will explain the support structure to the front line sales organization (if you have them) or business partners?
5. What problem management system will be used? Will there be two separate problem management systems? Will they merge, ultimately?
6. Will anyone other than the support organization be able to see customer problem records (eg. the sales force that may get a call from an irate customer)? And if the sales representative is allowed to access the problem records, who will teach him or her the new problem management system (if used) when the organizations merge?
7. If the customer has to be ‘entitled’ for support, will the entitlement systems be merged?
8. What is the escalation process for unhappy customers?
9. What are the processes for social media for each company. For example if one of the organizations engages with customers on Twitter or Facebook, what will the other organization do?
10. What is the web presence and mobile web presence for each organization? Will they refer to one another? Will they advise the customers how to engage support?
Food for Thought
Customers have expectations when companies merge. Most expect that the best of both organizations will become the norm for both.
Many organizations will maintain the two support organizations separately for a while with the objective of merging them over time. At minimum, the support organizations need to advise their respective customers how they will obtain service in the short term, and when, in the future, they might expect changes.
Once the new structure and processes have been determined, a detailed conversion plan will be needed to integrate both firms problem management records, processes, websites, problem submission processes and social media and mobile procedures.
A process to stream calls to the right set of skills will be needed or cross training of the front line customer service personnel to handle both company’s products and services will have to be undertaken.
One of the most important aspects of the plan is the communication plan with customers, the sales team and business partners. How will the new structure, and processes be communicated to each of these important stakeholders. What about social media? How will the changes be communicated using social media, like Twitter or Facebook?
Do you have a process you use to integrate acquisitions or mergers into your organization? Share them below.
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