Vodafone India and Idea: Making a Merger Work for the Customer
There are a lot of champagne corks popping in India this week, as Vodafone and Idea finally sign on the dotted line for their merger. The deal will make the new company the largest telecom firm in the country, with a market share of 40%.
With long term goals in mind to bring 4G to residents throughout the country, CEO of Vodafone Group PLC Vittorio Colao comments that the merger has “the potential to transform [the] daily life of every Indian.”
But there are many steps on the journey to achieving that potential, and high up on the list are the 395 million subscribers who are impacted by this deal.
Research shows that in the face of a merger, a customer’s overwhelming emotion will generally be concern. Should they worry about less competition in the market? Will this merge cause higher prices on their own monthly bills? Will the company be so busy with bureaucracy and marrying the two pieces that they’ll forget about the loyal customers who helped them get there? The impact of these fears is uncertainty and confusion, and leads to customers jumping ship. The effect can’t be underestimated, so the question is clear. How can you make the transition as seamless as possible while reminding your customers that you value them and prioritize their experience?
Listening to the Customer
Across all industries, mergers and acquisitions make customers feel unsteady on their feet. The likelihood for a customer to switch banks, for example, increases by up to three times when their own goes through a merger. As customers across the board prefer to simply find an alternative service than to explain why they’re unhappy, it’s up to the business to find out what the customer is feeling and make them feel heard by adopting positive changes.
Analytics are essential for this. With intelligent analytics, every interaction your customer has on your website can be tracked and grouped. This includes the questions they ask and the information they search for, even when it isn’t directly related to customer service itself. Your customer experience team can use this information to gather data on the fears and concerns your customers are feeling, creating a unique way to offer solutions before customers even express their concerns and allay their hesitations before they lead to flight risk or churn.
Billy Fink from Axial comments, “This ability for the company to put itself in the customer’s shoes allows it to understand the pain point and then effectively and appropriately communicate around those problems and questions.”
Sometimes this might involve creating a timeline of essential customer facing issues to put high on your list of priorities. But sometimes, the data can uncover actionable analytics which can be solved instantly. Let’s say for example that your data is telling you that 17% of visitors are suddenly searching for information on any increases to their monthly fees. You can create a landing page or FAQ article content which addresses this concern, providing a pre-emptive response to meet the customer needs.
Companies can also ask customers questions directly, How confident are you in the recent merger? or How likely would you be to recommend our company to a friend? and measure the changing results in the weeks and months after the merger. This is a great way to track whether you are inspiring confidence in your consumers.
Customers may also be afraid of the growth of your company, especially if they had concerns in any important areas before the merger. If they had trouble getting through to customer support beforehand, surely it will be even more difficult now?
One great example to learn from here is the merger of NTL and Telewest in the UK in 2005. Telewest was ranked #1 in customer service, while NTL was struggling at the bottom of the list. Reassuring customers and updating their processes to Telewest’s best practice, the company were able to acquire Virgin Mobile only a year later, becoming giants Virgin Media.
Cameron Gunn from Radley Yeldar agrees that a merger is an uncertain time for your customers, but he believes that this makes it the “perfect point to refresh or restore the customer experience and embed some customer-first thinking as part of your new culture.” Customers are looking for what’s new or changing, so show them that the changes are improvements, with their needs at the very forefront. Capitalize on the air of improvement to show your customers that they remain your top priority – refresh your website, update and optimize your content, revitalize the UI so your customer feels as catered to and appreciated as ever – convince them that all these changes are for the better and they have twice the firepower in their corner.
Scaling can be tricky for any large business, especially over a short space of time. Before a merger hits the media, your employees might not even be up to speed. But reassuring your customers that it’s ‘business as usual’ is too important to add to a growing to do list, or to wait until you’ve caught up every level of staff. It needs to be seamless from day one.
Intelligent support bots can be one powerful way to manage this concern. Round-the-clock help and support, empowered with the answers you want your customers to have, they effortlessly manage new or existing customers, with account information and personalized responses gleaned from one centralized knowledgebase. Integrating this kind of solution alongside your employees gives them the time to learn about the changes to the company structure and feel confident they are communicating one clear vision effectively, and gives them access to the same answers that your customers may be searching for. Further, with one-shot learning, an employee can realize that a specific piece of useful information may be missing from your content and add it on-the-fly, updating for all to access and enriching the knowledge base for everyone’s future use.
Two Become One - Merging with Success
A large deal like the Vodafone-Idea merger is cause for excitement and hope for the future. Help your customers embrace the celebratory feeling by minimizing confusion, providing seamless opportunity for growth, and tracking valuable insights from their every interaction.