Any time a merger or acquisition happens, there is not only the issue of on-boarding two different sets of employees, but of onboarding two different sets of clients. And sometimes, the latter challenge requires more strategy.
When Optimal merged with Peak Hosted Solutions more than a year ago, we not only enhanced our cloud computing offerings, but also our client list. Peak clients became Optimal clients and, while some were happy with the different service style, some, we found, were not.
Because we are passionate about our specific brand of service, we believe that high-touch service delivery is the preferred method. Historically, we’ve found that our service approach leads to increased communication with the client which results in a better client experience and higher client retention rates. This experiential data is what drives our client relationships and ever-increasing service standards.
Through this merger, however, we learned that the best service is delivered in the style that best suits the client. Instead of perceiving this as a passive approach to service, the Optimal team discovered that it is, quite oppositely, a very active approach. After introducing all former Peak clients to Optimal’s service style, we began to receive feedback indicating that this high-touch service was not going to work for them. Our client service executives had to re-learn how to best serve these clients and adjust their delivery methods accordingly. It was an admittedly steep learning curve (because it was so different from our usual service systems), but adjusting our approach for this specific client segment was exactly what the client needed—and wanted. The team at Optimal had to get comfortable with the fact that more is not always more, and for these clients, less meant better service.
Our company is not alone. Two years ago Southwest Airlines acquired AirTran Airways and they are still in the process of integrating employees and figuring out how best to serve their different client segments. I have a friend who was a flight attendant for AirTran for six years when the acquisition happened. According to this contact, all flight attendants must go through the Southwest training before working a Southwest flight, and not everyone makes it through. Part of the information they receive is about the difference in their customer preferences, and I’m willing to bet that part of what determines if they make it through the training is their ability to assess customer service preferences and adjust their service styles accordingly.
At the end of the day, service is judged by the one receiving it. This requires premium service professionals to be great listeners, strategic integrators of constructive criticism, and, above all else, flexible in their service delivery methods.