Personal concerns fill the minds of employees during the acquisition integration period. They worry about how they’ll be affected by all the change, fret over the myriad day-to-day aggravations, and commonly waste half the workday on unproductive behaviors such as gossiping, waiting for answers, or just being confused about how to proceed with their work. Overall, business suffers badly.
Clients and customers take a back seat, as employees are preoccupied with the internal affairs of the organization. Employees, from top to bottom, are more caught up in “looking out for old number one” than ever before. Customer service can really take a beating.
So merger shockwaves don’t just bounce around inside your corporate walls—they are also bound to hit the people who buy your products or services. The clientele will be very sensitive to what’s going on, and will actually start looking for changes. Just like the employees, your customers will scan the situation for evidence of whether they will benefit or suffer from the merger. Your firm is vulnerable, and the competition has an excellent opportunity to gain some of your market share.
Several steps are needed in order to mobilize your sales force and customer service groups:
- Establish a DEW-LINE (Defense Early Warning) for rapid detection and reporting of any slippage in sales or customer service.
- Provide a toll-free hotline for customers to call in questions, complaints, or suggestions.
- Get physically closer to your clients—contact them more frequently, and spend more time with them during those encounters.
- Move rapidly to communicate the benefits of the merger, rather than letting the competition get there first with its side of the story.
Also there are a number of things you should do internally to encourage employee attention to clients and customers. Steps you can take to counter people’s distraction and preoccupation with personal concerns would include the following:
- Implement new service initiatives aimed at protecting (even improving) your firm’s sales and service.
- Give employees quick, accurate feedback regarding how things are going in sales and service.
- Develop new merger-specific incentive programs that reward employees for high-quality performance during the merger transition period.
Everyone needs to remember that he or she is there because there is a business to run, not because a merger is taking place. And if they’re getting paid to help run a business, that’s what they need to concentrate on every hour of the workday.