Customers Reference Tactics When Companies are Acquired and Acquiring

We all know that customer retention is more cost effective and easier than customer acquisition right?  Well, we should know that.  It takes less money to keep a customer happy and have them tell others about how great your company is than it is to convince a brand new prospect that your product/company is fabulous.  Less time, money and manpower is needed when you’ve kept a customer happy.  You also get the benefit of a customer talking positively about you.  Word of mouth marketing (WOMM) is priceless.

But what happens when a company is acquired?  What happens to the customers?  In this case, the dynamics change a bit. 

I have worked with companies that have been acquired and ones that have acquired others.  It’s a difficult and very touchy subject – at least in a B2B scenario. In the case where I was working at a company that was acquired, the customers were very worried about their future.  The product roadmap was a concern for them because they wanted to know if the investment they had made in the acquired company would all be gone.  Will they have to buy new products?  And what about the support they were receiving.  Sometimes they were afraid that they’d turn into a little fish in a big pond rather than being a big fish in a little pond.

And for the times when I was working at a company that acquired others, the acquired customers felt the same but they were very hesitant to talk to me – the reference person.  They had thoughts like who is this new person from a bigger company asking for things?  What does she want? How soon will she forget about me? What’s in it for me?

In both cases, it is extremely important to talk to the customers.  Let them know what’s going on and if and how things will change.  Treat customers on both sides of the scenario with respect and let them know that they are still important. 

In some cases, you may find that newly acquired customers will be very happy initially but then realize that they are being fogotten. In other cases they’ll be upset, nervous and unsure and then become very loyal.  If you measure customer loyalty/satisfaction by your own means or via Net Promoter Score  (NPS) do you see a difference before the acquisition and then after? Keep a pulse on your customers and don’t forget about them.

We, as reference professionals, have a great opportunity at a time like this to be support for customers.  Take advantage of the opportunity and connect with customers if you’re getting acquired and touch base as soon as you can with customers when you have acquired.  Reach out, say hi and introduce yourself.   Let them know that you’re there for them.

Another aspect of a merger or acquisition is the employee loyalty level.  If employees speak negatively about the acquisition, it’ll be passed on to customers.  If employees speak positively about the acquisition, it’ll be passed on to the customers. Internal stakeholders are equally as important as external.  It’s a lot harder than it sounds, but keep all employees along the customer corridor happy.

Remember that customers are people first, then customers!  How would you want to be treated?