You can forgive customer support teams if they’re weary of mergers and acquisitions. After all, consolidations rarely go as smoothly as planned. But while other departments are off handling the inevitable issues internally and at their own pace, customer support has no such luxury. CS representatives and management alike are kept up at night wondering how to iron out all the organizational wrinkles caused by the consolidation without impacting customer experience.
It isn’t an easy problem to solve and even the best CS teams will need a lot of help. But there’s reason for hope. At the end of the day, CS consolidation is a problem that can be solved like any other — with a mix of careful planning, great software tools and excellent execution. Below, we look at some techniques to keep the customer experience steady when all things internal are anything but.
Establish New Team Roles
Running something complicated like a community forum calls for a clear organizational hierarchy and chain of management. As a recent post by Bain noted, the instinct during a consolidation is for an organization to create endless process documents as a substitute for actual decision making strategy. To avoid this trap, you must maintain a hierarchy throughout the transitional period. This is something that cannot be done without a clear understanding of who is in charge as the CS departments merge.
Things that are ordinarily automatic need to be carefully reevaluated. Who is the initial point of contact on the team? Where are tickets being escalated? Who has the final say if an important decision needs to be made? As the CS teams merge and organizational capacity shifts, responsibility for these questions needs to be clearly defined .
Although this is without a doubt the most uncomfortable part of the M&A process, it’s also the most essential. A morass of nebulous processes can never substitute clear decision-making by a team of people who know what they are responsible for.
Get The Technology Straight
One of the biggest mistakes CS departments make during a consolidation is to ignore the influence of technology. For example, community forum management is a key aspect of modern CS, and all major companies will have their own systems. CS also relies on programs for things like self-serve support, social media management, and even blogging.
Developing a plan up front for existing IT programs to be either integrated or phased out is critical. The worst thing that can happen is technology overlap — it causes confusion, inefficiency, and can lead to customers falling through the cracks. Too often, CS departments — who are generally staffed with emotive, optimistic people — will ignore or downplay the cold, hard realities of the technology used. But, as it’s been said, “product overlaps will not work themselves out”. Take that advice to heart.
Set Standards; Be Accountable.
Consolidation is one of the most tumultuous things that any CS organization can experience. Accountable execution to a clear set of standards is critical.
Organizations bring their own unique cultures and inertia to any consolidation deal — including methods of operations that are so ingrained as to be all but unspoken. In some cases, having a static operational state can be great – even the sign of a healthy organization. However, in a period of flux like a consolidation, this way of operating can be the death knell of productivity and success.
Culture management is in many ways the number one thing CS teams need during a merger. Everything is changing and so everything should be prepared in advance. As the Wall Street Journal notes, “effective M&A steering committees reject soft or poorly defined presentations of culture”.
CS teams which take time to plan clear organizational structures, manage technology overlap and be proactive about making the new expectations and culture clear, will be well on their way to maintaining productivity and keeping up the same level of customer experience that their clients deserve.