Customer Success (CS) and customer experience are often disregarded when firms merge, despite the fact that it is undoubtedly one of the most crucial components of any business. According to Gartner’s research, organizations of the future will compete mostly on customer experience. Driving Customer Success during acquisitions is the trickiest as even the slightest operational change can have a huge negative impact on both personnel and customers.
While keeping Customer Success in the forefront of your thoughts throughout the Merger&Acquisition process is difficult, the rewards are undeniable: it protects your most valuable customers and your workforce.
We discovered that maintaining a high-quality customer experience necessitates a combination of competent employees and operational methods.
Why is it crucial to consider Customer Success during acquisition?
While customers are the foundation of a company’s worth, acquired companies’ customer relationships are sometimes treated as an afterthought during the acquisition process.
As a result, once due diligence is finished and contracts are signed, customer success teams are frequently in pandemonium. Customer success teams work tirelessly to comprehend and manage the impact on their own customers, as well as acquired and mutual customers.
We’ll look at some of the different challenges that can arise, as well as the best practices for dealing with them, in this guide. We’ve made some generalizations because every acquisition is different, and acquired clients may have different rep/client ratios, ASPs, touch cadence, and so on, but many difficulties stay the same. We’re assuming that our client is the acquirer.
Extra Resource: How to do Effective account transitions in Customer Success
Challenges faced and the Top 6 ways to ensure customer success during acquisitions:
People are at the heart of customer success.
Customer success is around people first and foremost. Because processes and systems are always secondary, the first step should be to focus on your new customer success team.
It’s natural to lose personnel after an acquisition, whether it’s due to cost-cutting, economies of scale, or the opportunity to build a new path elsewhere. From a customer success standpoint, this is quite dangerous since losing a customer success manager, regardless of your rep-to-client ratio, is extremely costly.
If the acquired company doesn’t have a customer success function, you can show customer success value through this article: Customer Success as a profit center
As a first step, it’s critical to get to know your new customer success team. Find out who is:
- in charge of the key accounts,
- in charge of the team’s culture, and
- the innovator who is in charge of developing new processes and propelling the company forward.
You must meet with each member of the team and swiftly assess the risk of them leaving, as well as the possible damage if they do, before taking steps to avoid departures.
If churn isn’t dangerously high and there’s no need for quick modifications, don’t make any changes. As an acquirer, it’s easy to believe you know everything, but change takes time and requires careful management.
In reality, this involves keeping existing portfolios and connections while ensuring that every customer success person understands how the product helps you achieve business outcomes, the future impact on customers due to tech synergies, and the new product and company strategy.
Maintain client relationships that are mutual.
Unless you’re buying apples to apples, mutual clients are almost unavoidable in a merger.
Mutual clients that are competitors might pose a considerable risk during an acquisition. Yet they are frequently taken into account. Because it’s the safest option, the chances of overlooking this probability are real. You must detect them early on, segment them by total ARR, and eliminate them.
Understand the differences in ARR between the two and why they are employing them.
tools and tell a story about how the acquisition will help them personally. Normally, they’ll
If they’re used to having a SPOC, you should try to reintroduce it. However, only when a few internal reps have been trained and are experienced with both products. Because the mutual customer will be through change regardless. You can designate a small group of competent CSMs to handle mutual clients exclusively. This will minimize the need to train everyone on products and assisting you in developing competence in managing mutual clients.
Drive a gentle upselling process
One of the most obvious goals of an acquisition is to increase upsells of your product. Customers have a tendency to fear this eventuality and sit about waiting to be pitched. The best way to succeed is to take a gentle, educational approach, and a referral procedure from existing CSMs to the appropriate upsells team.
CSMs should be compensated for promoting upsells, either through a net churn revenue metric or a bonus for supplying qualifying leads.
This soft-touch recommendation procedure can be a good approach to push education across all CSMs, assuming it is given enough weight in the process.
Learn about the strategies to increase upsells!
Avoid siloes by managing systems
Systems are an often-overlooked source of customer success during an acquisition.
Even if you and your acquisition target are both using the same CRM and ticketing system, we all know how different and unfamiliar someone else’s Salesforce instance may be.
Different systems create a slew of issues because the now-unified customer success teams are working in silos. With disparate data sources and no overarching Customer 360. This is manageable if you already use a system like CustomerSuccessBox. But if you don’t, you’ll need to quickly teach a handful of detail-oriented CSMs on both systems so they can help.
Align compensation models among Customer Success teams.
Different compensation models can pose a comparable difficulty. For example, your clients would have completely different experiences if one Customer Success team gets a reward for retention while the other for client engagement.
Obviously, the pay does not change overnight. Yet it is critical to bridge significant gaps, such as those in this case, either by:
- Temporary training programs or
- A concentrated education program on why the teams operate in such disparate ways.
What you don’t want is one Customer Success team to feel superior to the other. You don’t want them to be afraid of damaging their connection by dealing with the other team.
Here are the best customer success practices during mergers & acquisitions:
- Include someone on the M&A team who can act as a customer advocate. Assign this individual to customer due diligence prior to the transaction and experience management during the integration.
- Evaluate the aim in a way that goes beyond financial reasons. Use business and operating model research to assist you to connect targets to the deal’s strategic goal.
- If the deal goes through, conduct a gap analysis. between present and target customer experience capabilities. Analyze customer service, value propositions, channel, brand promise, and engagement to know how to bridge the identified gaps.
- Drill down deeper into the present operating model. It is vital to gain a holistic picture of how the target’s different competencies, from culture to IT, maybe merged to achieve success.
- The goal is to figure out what the business drivers are and how they relate to one another.
- Consider doing workshops with different team members to identify opportunities and new ways to provide value to the consumer. This method allows you to do far more than an analytical spreadsheet exercise ever could.
- Go a step further and ask customers what they value the most
- Incorporate the business drivers and their relationships into the business case. Determine the value drivers that contribute to the customer experience and customer success. Make sure there’s a clear connection between the fulfilling customer journey and the financial aspect of the acquisition.
- Engineer the delivery of customer value into the integration plans, as specified in the business case. This entails arranging integration from the right to the left rather than the more conventional left-to-right method. Begin with the deal’s desired business results, particularly the customer value propositions, and proceed back to the value drivers that will enable those goals to be realized.
- Structure the integration such that people’s resources, talents, and traits are in sync with the work rhythm. In each scenario, this will be different.
- Quick wins the race. Immediate value delivery with minimal work required after the transaction.
During mergers and acquisitions, constant and regular communication is critical. Make sure everyone in your team understands what’s going on. Because the inevitable change might cause anxiety for many individuals. The Customer Success’ top responsibility should be managing change – for both internal employees and external customers.
Firms that prioritize the customer experience and customer success throughout the process will position themselves for future success. It will also enable them to retain present customers. You can learn more about best customer success practices on our blog.