Fortune reports that "M&A activity has already blown past the $2 trillion mark in a record-breaking 2021," and this trend is likely to continue. But does bigger equal better? According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI), "the acquiring company experiences a 3% drop in customer satisfaction over the initial two-year period post-merger."
Why is that? Acquisitions happen frequently and are not inherently bad, but it is important to note that the primary beneficiaries of these activities are shareholders, not necessarily the customers. As noted by ASCI, "Typically, in an acquisition, companies aren't trying to grow their customer base by improving how they provide goods and quality services. They're literally buying another customer base. The goal for these companies is delivering value to shareholders." By neglecting consumers, companies may ultimately be hurting themselves – any negative impact on customer service is not an effective way to grow business.
Impact on Customer Experience
As these Certification Bodies grow, what is the impact on the customer experience? What risks come with the merging of disparate systems, processes and customer support staff? According to Harvard Business Review, customer experience is often overlooked during mergers and acquisitions. "Even the smallest operational change can have a significant negative impact on both employees and customers," writes Dan Kiely. "In many cases, integration efforts can take up so much time, energy, and attention that managers and employees are distracted from their day-to-day roles. All too often, poorly managed systems migrations — or uncoordinated actions — can lead to miscommunications with customers." In other words, focusing on the merger itself (rather than how it affects non-shareholders) can tarnish a company's brand overall.
Post-M&A, the Impact is Greatest in the Service Industry
Customers of Certification Bodies make significant investments into maintaining their certified status. These customers cannot afford to experience a potential negative consequence to their certified status due to M&A activity that may shift the focus away from their customer experience. The service industry is where these effects weigh the heaviest.
As noted at Freshdesk, "Customer service isn't just a strategic differentiator for small and medium businesses. It is an essential function the company must perform correctly. The impact of even a single customer service failure can be devastating." The advent of social media and the prevalence of online reviews mean that these mistakes often stick with the company – sometimes forever. Tarnishing the brand can happen fast, but rebuilding it afterwards typically takes time and a lot of effort.
A Certification Body Focused on Customer Experience
Smithers believes there is a very basic foundation for customer service expectations with offering third-party conformity assessments, regardless of a Certification Body's size. We adhere to a strong Relationship Management Model that drives towards a "Relational Value" with all our clients.