The Absent Acquisitions Playbook

I was talking with the business development group at a Fortune 100 last week. They were looking internationally to acquire new businesses as they work on growing their existing portfolio. The company has grown massively over the last twenty years, primarily through acquisition.

They are good at it, but over the course of time, they have suffered consequences. They have traditionally been good at analyzing a company or a system and identifying whether or not it would be a strategic fit into the broader organization. Since they have been doing this for years, it’s hard to argue with their success. They have done well, but it got me thinking about downstream impacts.

While in onsite meetings with this client, I had the opportunity to talk with some of the senior leaders in the organization. It quickly became clear to me that the company has struggled integrating the acquisitions into a nationally standard organization. Most of the acquisitions were allowed to run independently of one another. The thought was that by having local knowledge, and local boots on the ground, it would lead to a better customer experience.

Only, it hasn’t. It has actually created a fragmentation of the customer experience. Policies vary from region to region. If you’re call gets routed to a different queue you may very well be getting a different set of policies than that of your regular queue. The end result is a poor customer experience at best.

It also leads to a poor employee experience. Employees are pulled in a variety of directions and are constantly held in a reactive state, waiting for the next directive or next change to come into play. Part of the problem is not knowing whether the change is moving from region or corporate, which one supersedes the other, and ultimately what will they, the employees, be measured against.

If it’s about productivity and dollars, I would image an employee would do their best to wrap the call quickly. If it’s about first call resolution and the customer experience, their approach will most likely be different. But the messages are muddled.

This company has a keen eye for strategic acquisitions, but the playbook hasn’t been set in advance, confounding issues for employees, managers and leaders alike. The time spent after the fact has been costly. The assumption that companies can ingest one another without a well thought out plan for the operations and people end of things is an issue.

Cultural integration of human capital should be among the first considerations for acquiring companies … instead of an afterthought.

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