A post-acquisition integration is complex with many interdependent variables, but as long you use the customer and the employee lenses to validate your decisions, you will succeed.
The Customer Lens
Customer importance is obvious, but in the world of subscriptions and recurring revenue it is much more heightened. No longer a transactional “one-and-done”, it’s now an ongoing relationship with the customer and every interaction adds or detracts to that relationship. A single event Customer Service approach has been replaced by an ongoing Customer Success programme.
When it comes to integration, the key is to appreciate that there are emotional as well as rational customer considerations. For example, if you change the brand and the next day there is a totally unrelated service issue, the customer will pin that negative experience to the new brand. Now the customer has a negative mindset where the new brand is synonymous with a decrease in quality - “it’s not like it used to be” - and the customer will be more alert to minor issues and interpret marginal events negatively. This can quickly turn into a downward spiral that leads to a customer exit.
Therefore when planning an integration activity you need to take time to play the role of the customer, considering their viewpoint and how them will interpret the activity in the context of their relationship status with the business, their recent and upcoming touchpoints. The difference between what the business and what the customer experiences can be eye opening.
The Employee Lens
As the leadership team, it’s clear to you what the integration end-state is and how it fits into the wider strategic plan for the business. But employees do not have this insight and even if you tell them, they can only take your word for it and have no influence over it. You cannot over communicate to employees about integration activities.
Take something as simple as a brand unification i.e. changing the acquired business brand to that of the acquirer. The logic is clear with a single combined Marketing and Sales focus, cost and effort reduction and the symbolism of bringing the businesses together as one. However, looking at this change through the employee lens it could be seen as a loss of identity, an aggressive move to eradicate the acquired business and indicative of a “my way or the highway” approach from the acquirer.
By considering how employees may interpret integration decisions, you can then take pre-emptive action via communication to address those concerns head on and help employees truly understand why the change is happening, what will be impacted and – more importantly – what won’t change.
Integration is everything
We strongly believe that a deal’s success or failure is determined through integration rather than through the transaction, as highlighted by the M&A Iceberg.
And as long as you look after your customers and your employees throughout the integration, you’ll win the day.