Mergers and acquisitions have become commonplace throughout the telecommunications space. In 2015, brands like Lightower and Fibertech, Crown Castle and Sunesys, and Frontier and Verizon had M&A deals. While these and other companies merged assets to reduce costs and boost revenue, the most imperative element—the customer—often gets lost in the shuffle.
You see, while the financial ramifications are certainly critical to any merger’s success, these companies mustn’t disregard how the shift will influence the telecom customer experience in the long term. In most mergers, companies go forth for a variety of reasons (geographical expansion, top-line growth, increased capabilities), but all too often, the customers become numbers on their P&L sheets.
So how can telecoms keep customers’ needs and interests a focal point during a potential merger and acquisition?
1. Map out all steps for customers to ensure they don’t churn.
The first step in any merger communications plan is to map out both the customers of the acquired telecom and the customers of the acquiring telecom. Define each group’s issues and concerns, the primary communications objective, the focus of the communication’s message, and the intended media/channels used to reach them. And remember, each group may demonstrate different concerns at different stages of the merger so creating varying messaging to send at those times is essential.
2. Place the customer experience at the center of all subsequent measures to guarantee every action has their best interests at heart.
Companies that do the best job of retaining customers (and attracting new ones) will adopt the customer’s view of the merger as they make important integration decisions. That requires maintaining an open two-way dialog with customers where telecoms seek input and then listen to and act on the feedback.
As Chris Burton, TTEC’s senior vice president of communications, said in this blog post, a lack of investment in customer-centric measures is leading to churn. While cost and coverage are important factors for telecom customers, they’re not enough to avoid churn, Burton said. A negative customer experience could very well drive them to the competition.
3. Address operational adjustments and embrace culture change.
Much like marriage, mergers represent the union of two separate entities that are entirely different in the way they think and operate. For telecom brands, this means combining different approaches, different systems, and different philosophies to reflect growth while maintaining identity simultaneously.
Telecoms must focus on creating synergy between the two disparate brands in order to form one cohesive enterprise. Leaders need to recall what drew them to this particular merger initially in order to preserve the strengths of each company. One organization shouldn’t consume the other entirely. Ideally, such acquisitions will spark mindset changes throughout both teams as leaders work to create one united front. Once everyone’s on the same page, telecom leaders can then optimize operations to eliminate redundancies, improve interactions, and advance customer centricity.
When companies merge, they embark on changes, both minor and major, that can make a big difference to customers, causing even the most loyal to reevaluate their relationships with the company. Customers expect seamless transitions, uninterrupted service, and transparency along the way otherwise they may likely defect. Rather than just focus on quickly reducing costs, telecoms must keep both the current and acquiring customers at the center of everything they do for long-term viability and success.
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