What Mergers and Acquisitions Mean for Customer Experience

spiraling arrows pointing up representing a merger

Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) seem to be everywhere you look.

Across every industry and sector, from technology companies to media enterprises and health care organizations, consolidation seems to be the norm.

One way or another, you’ve likely been impacted by a merger or acquisition in your professional life. If not, you’ve certainly been affected as a consumer, whether that’s meant a change in your health insurance policy or simply a new installment of your favorite media franchise.

When you realized what was happening, how did you feel? If the M&A announcement changed the way you feel about any of the companies involved, then it had a role to play in your customer experience (CX).

Mergers and acquisitions can be a tricky time, and doing right by your customers is crucial for making the change successful.

Unfortunately, the results aren’t always positive. According to a 2020 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, patient experiences declined a little bit following hospital mergers and acquisitions. Fortunately, the study noted that readmission and mortality rates were largely unaffected.

Still, the noticeable decline for patients underscores the importance of carefully managing mergers and acquisitions to preserve CX. Done well, these events could even improve the overall customer experience.

What Is Customer Experience?

Before we go any further, let’s take a moment to clarify what we mean by customer experience. CX is a broad term, and there are various definitions and interpretations of this elusive concept.

First, let’s take a look at a simple definition provided in a 2010 blog from Harley Manning, vice president and research director for Forrester.

Manning wrote that the CX team at Forrester had settled on this definition: “How customers perceive their interactions with your company.”

He notes that this definition means CX is based on perceptions of interactions. How the customer feels about the company’s products and services, and how useful they perceive them to be, are at the core of the definition. The interactions are broadly defined. Ads, website visits, phone calls, emails, product usage and face-to-face time with employees all fall under this umbrella.

Now, let’s look at a second definition.

This year, a blog post from Epsilon Marketing defined customer experience as, “the way a customer perceives your brand through all interactions with it during their customer lifecycle.”

This overview shares some commonalities with the first definition.

In each instance, CX is defined as being both:

  • Subjective.
  • Expansive.

CX places the customer’s perception at the center of the equation. Everything the company does, from how its products are designed to the manner in which its staff handle service calls, impact the overall customer experience.

Best Practices for Managing CX During M&A

Considering that CX is inherently subjective, the mere announcement of a merger or acquisition can impact it. How does the customer perceive the brand that they don’t already have a preexisting relationship with? How was the announcement conducted? Right from the outset, CX is bound to change.

The good news is that a 2019 survey from PwC found that a majority of the respondents think customers stand to benefit from mergers and acquisitions.

On the other hand, less than half of the respondents in the same survey said they believe that companies “have customers’ best interest in mind during M&A.”

This suggests that customers can be brought on board and that there are opportunities to use M&A as a tool for improving CX. It seems that customers are willing to be sold on the case, but that they don’t think companies are putting their needs at the forefront of the integration.

Analysis from PwC gives us some clues about best practices to use for improving customer experience during a merger or acquisition.

1. Maintain the Workforce

The data suggests that customers see it as a sign of strength when companies retain their workforce after M&A. In fact, 88% of respondents in the PwC survey said it was important to hold on to staff during a merger or acquisition.

2. Safeguard Customer Data

The PwC survey found that most customers are on board with sharing their data to enhance company offerings after M&A. That said, 91% of respondents said their data needed to be kept safe during the process.

3. Listen to Customers, and Keep What They Like

Find out why customers are loyal to the newly acquired or merged company, and embrace those aspects as part of the new entity’s holistic identity. 74% of survey respondents said preserving what they liked about both companies would make the deal a success.

4. Share a Unified Vision

Friction between the different parties in a merger or acquisition can adversely affect the new organization and harm the customer experience. Leadership needs to make a strong case for why joining the properties is in everybody’s best interest, and all parties need to buy into that vision. PwC’s survey found that 84% of respondents said leadership from both businesses should endorse the M&A.

5. Practice Regular and Transparent Communication

A majority of PwC survey respondents said customers should be kept up to date about integration during the M&A process, but fewer than half said they would reach out to the company themselves. To ensure CX is positive, companies should take the lead with enthusiastic, transparent communications.

6. Consider a Unified Customer Experience

With multiple products and digital experiences under one umbrella company, the faster you can provide one seamless experience for your users, the better that experience will be. The Company.com platform offers a dashboard solution that accomplishes this digital experience transformation while optimizing the customer journey to enjoy the synergies of cross-selling and upselling across your new product range.

Done right, mergers and acquisitions represent an opportunity for using shared resources to drive CX. Offering co-branded value-add products is another way to share strengths with different companies and improve the customer experience. Company.com offers a centralized business Dashboard that your customers might benefit from. Find out how to become a channel partner today.