Cost management will remain critical as CEOs reposition their organizations to serve customers and differentiate themselves in this new environment.
Factoring in CX during due diligence
PE firms must identify the challenges a portfolio company faces and examine the subsequent impact on the customer experience. Specifically, difficulties could revolve around the customer journey, pricing, the migration from old to new digital platforms, or an operating model that unintentionally makes their CX more arduous.
Although industry benchmarks, customer satisfaction scores and Net Promotor Scores® (NPS) are all good indicators of customer sentiment, it’s crucial that investors understand the overarching narrative that underpins these scores and their potential impact on a company’s competitive positioning and growth. Although it can be difficult to obtain this data from private companies, EY can uncover the insights needed through research and interviews in a commercial due diligence process.
Primary research is a core part of this analysis and can include interviewing a portfolio company’s customers, as well as its competitors’ customers, to fully understand how and why the levels of customer satisfaction differ across the competitive landscape. Incorporating social media monitoring can illuminate and segment key conversation topics, measure consumer sentiment and affinities, and expose pain points — all of which reflect the quality of a company’s CX in real time and the impact on its online reputation over the long term.
Another aspect of due diligence concentrates on a company’s operating model. PE firms should look out for “red flag” excesses of personnel, lack of automation or high cost to serve. Essential diligence questions for portfolio companies may include:
- How does the business view its customer segmentation? What are the key use cases? How do needs and behaviors vary by size, type of customer or use case?
- What is the functionality and feature set that customers seek? How does that overlap with your competitor’s product offer?
How EY can help
Transaction strategy and execution
EY-Parthenon teams can support you with the development, evaluation and end-to-end execution of your transaction strategy. We deliver operational due diligence, deal management, functional support (e.g. IT, Finance) and value creation advice and support. We advise our clients early to navigate transaction risk and increase value, from deal inception, to execution, and then driving toward longer-term transformation.Read more
Improving a portfolio company’s CX post-acquisition
To improve CX, it is critical to first understand if and how it has adapted to today’s digital landscape. A thoughtful CX road map can help to:
- Map end-to-end touchpoints between a company and its key customer segments
- Listen to and assess customer sentiment
- Design a digitally enhanced, end-to-end “future state” for the customer journey
- Develop, prioritize and plan the initiatives required to improve the CX
These steps will help to drive revenue by optimizing the CX for conversion, improving customer satisfaction and brand loyalty — as well as increasing efficiency and agility by simplifying, standardizing and automating back-end processes.
For example, a PE-backed European telecommunications company needed to improve its operating model to keep pace with the rapidly changing telecom market in Western Europe. To accomplish this, they wanted to better understand exactly what their customers needed from them. EY performed a rigorous data collection and modeling exercise using data from all customer touchpoints that enabled the company to:
- Increase customer retention rates
- Identify areas of the business requiring more resources and technical upgrades to better fit customer needs
- Set discount rates for customers with high churn propensity
- Discover almost US$2m in revenue losses and improve efficiency and timeliness in the company’s call center
- Develop and implement a marketing strategy to drive ROI, competitive differentiation and customer loyalty
This example demonstrates how the combination of a customer-centric philosophy, data-driven approach and digital aspiration can transform how a company thinks about, interacts with and serves its customers.
COVID-19-era CX: key considerations for PE firms and Portco CEOs
Many portfolio companies are grappling with the work and costs involved in improving CX. CEOs can begin by preparing a road map as described above; however, the most important aspect of any strategy in today’s environment is flexibility.
Over the next 6-18 months, much of what was considered normal economic activity — dining in restaurants, going to the salon, traveling — is now dependent on the threat (and resulting restrictions) posed by the pandemic. Companies must remain alert to customer pain points and adapt their services accordingly. If people must stay home, the product must go to them. If they can visit a business, they must feel safe doing so.
Cost management will remain critical as CEOs reposition their organization to serve customers and differentiate themselves in this new environment. While the pandemic does serve as a forcing mechanism for experience-led transformation, this necessary pivot may be detrimental to profit margins, at least in the short term. Now, investors will need to scrutinize the impact of this shift across the portfolio and determine whether their new cost-to-serve model is sustainable over the long term.
As the pandemic rages on, investors who recognize CX as a lever for long-term value creation have a unique opportunity to drive differentiation and customer loyalty across their portfolio.