When acquiring a company, you have many stakeholders to consider and communicate with as changes are happening. From leadership changes to process alignments and everything in between, there is a lot to map out and inform your internal teams about. It’s also important to prepare an external communications plan, to help align your newly acquired customers or your legacy customers to your company’s ideal customer experience. Building an external communications plan to speak to customers is key to the retention, adoption, and growth of your customers following an acquisition
There are several sensitive customer changes associated with an acquisition, and you’ll want to prepare your external communications plan accordingly. Below are some areas of the customer experience that should be evaluated along with the corresponding communications that should be considered.
When transitioning to a new parent company or merging two businesses, there are going to be changes that customers experience with respect to billing, pricing of services, contracts, and more. These types of changes typically have customers on edge because they will ultimately impact their bottom line. When possible, we recommend these types of changes be communicated to customers in person or through a phone or video conference call, rather than a written notice (though some may require written follow-up). Ideally, if the customer’s main account representative has not changed from before the acquisition, this familiar individual could guide the conversation to help the customer feel more at ease. Talking points and frequently asked questions (FAQs) should be prepared in advance and vetted by your legal department to ensure the conversation stays on topic and only the appropriate information is disclosed to customers. This will be one of the more sensitive parts of your customer communications plan, so be sure to prepare properly and with plenty of time in advance.
Account management and customer service
How the customer interacts with your company, and who they will be interacting with, is another important change that requires a communications plan. Maybe you will be retaining the acquired company’s workforce, in which case this conversation will be a little easier. However, most likely there will at least be a shift in how accounts are managed and what the overall customer experience looks like. Some questions to consider:
- Will the company be assigned a new account representative?
- Have the hours of available customer service changed?
- Has the service model changed - such as which teams within the company will handle different issues for the customer?
- Have any processes changed, like how a request for something is submitted or who it’s submitted to?
It’s important to realize that some changes may occur behind the scenes and won’t necessarily need to be brought to your customers’ attention, but where they will experience any impact, there should be communication. An in-person meeting or phone/video conference call would be a good way to deliver this news, or if the changes will be more general, a video could be created and shared with customers to explain the changes. As with any big change, developing follow-up resources, like a customer guide or having FAQs in your account reps’ hands in advance, is a good idea to ensure any concerns voiced by customers can be handled quickly and accurately.
We shared a post recently about building an internal communications plan for aligning technology. You may also need to apply some of the same principles to your external communications plan, if your business utilizes any kind of software or technology that is new to your acquired or legacy customers. You’ll want to be as transparent as possible, communicating upfront and consistently about the impact of the technology change and how it might impact their business. Think about what they will want to know: what’s new, what’s changing, and what’s staying the same. Build your communications around these questions and ensure you are providing quality answers. Finally, make sure you have adequate training and support resources in place, so that after the technology alignment, customers are empowered to adopt the new technology.
Create a change matrix, where you can easily display functions, how the function was done on the old system, and how the function is done on the new system. Then, you’ll need to decide how and when you’ll communicate each of these changes. It’s possible that a version of this guide may eventually become customer-facing, or you may break it up into several communications. If you feel there are some changes that customers may view as negative, you may want to put an intensified focus on the new features.
There will likely be many other changes aside from business, customer service, and technology that will impact your customers following an acquisition, but we hope this helps you start thinking about what these changes are, and how they might best be communicated to ensure the customer has a positive experience during this transition.
Interested in learning more about how we can support you during your acquisition? Drop us a line.