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Insights from Ben Neivert

Customers know the secret ingredient

When a company is acquiring another, of course, they spend time and money on the due diligence and research to make sure the company they are acquiring is as good as their initial intelligence revealed.

It is evident that retaining customers is key to success in many mergers or acquisitions. Especially, when acquiring B2B companies where the products or services are complex, the number of clients is relatively small or where a small proportion of clients contribute to a large proportion of the profits. Here we are not talking about acqui-hires but acquiring an ongoing business.

I realize that many will say that interviewing the customers is an obvious step in acquisitions; however, the survey format I have found most effective is not an online multi-choice survey but a one-on-one discussion conducted by phone or in person. The discussion design provides an opportunity for the acquisition's customer to share thoughts about their experience with the company through a series of multi-choice and open questions covering the products and services the customer uses.

The discussion is planned for 60-minutes, but a shorter version consisting of crucial areas of interest can be completed in 10 minutes. During the discussion, we talk about:

  • why they selected the company;

  • what other companies they considered;

  • their satisfaction with the products, service, and people; their possible future purchases or collaborations;

  • how trustworthy the company is and why; and

  • finally, would they refer this company to a friend.

The questions are written to provide a mix of qualitative and quantitative answers. Customers are prompted with questions; however, they are encouraged to bring up anything they feel might be relevant to know and they frequently do.

In every case, where I have done this type of research on the customers we have discovered something surprising; the acquiring company has learned critical information that is factored into the purchase price and integration planning.
Person putting ingredients into a dish
Don't miss the secret ingredient that makes a business successful.

When you are acquiring a company, do you:

  1. Use an online survey tool with only multiple-choice questions to deliver quantitative results?

  2. Use an online survey tool with multiple-choice and open questions to deliver quantitative and qualitative results?

  3. Use one-on-one interviews with a combination of multiple-choice and open questions to deliver quantitative and qualitative results?

Let me know in the comments below.


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