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Avoiding Customer Loss: Standardize SOPs After A Merger or Acquisition

In recent years, the medical device industry has experienced a trend of consolidation through mergers and acquisitions (M&A). Due to continued globalization and high demand for medical products and services, as well as pricing pressure, medical device manufacturers are scaling up operations and diversifying their product portfolios in order to compete and succeed in a value-based healthcare model.review_papers-1.jpg

Long-term success is yet to be seen. Nevertheless, one of the biggest risks to M&A success is the integration of two companies. Everything from corporate culture down to business processes must be negotiated and planned. While it can take up to 2 years to get everyone using the same systems and databases, it is critical that operating procedures are standardized as soon as possible. No matter how noble your device is, there's no faster way to lose customers than providing an inconsistent experience.

Based on Novatek’s experience standardizing operational procedures across organizations, here are some steps your company can take to avoid inconsistency and retain customers:

5 Steps for Integrating Company Procedures for a Consistent Customer Experience

1. Assess Impact on Operational Procedures ASAP

During the inevitable holding pattern of waiting or uncertainty after a merger or acquisition, quality managers and operation managers should start assessing which processes will remain, which process will change, and the impact each has on current standard operating procedures (SOPs). Although many procedures may change due to new systems, it is important to get a head start. Once a new system goes live, it will be important to have workflows, procedures, checklists, and training ready to go. The faster employees learn the new process, the less likely customers are to feel gaps in their service.

2. Select a Common Framework
A consistent customer experience starts with consistent procedures, all the way down to the framework. Good SOPs have the same framework, no matter what industry you work in. Select a common approach to documenting procedures and use it across all departments.

Here are just a few things to consider when developing your framework:

      • How will desired results and quality controls be communicated in the procedure?
      • Will your tasks have accompanying objectives to reduce the learning curve?
      • Do your procedures require accompanying workflows or checklists? How will these be presented and shared?
3. Determine a Common Language

Even in the same industry, it is unlikely that two companies use identical vocabulary when referring to systems, processes, and parts. The nouns and verbs used are often part of a company’s culture and norms. Therefore, it is important not to overlook the differences in lingo between two merging companies.

To ensure procedures are clearly understood by all, review all procedures for jargon and language differences. Then determine a common language that will be understood by employees or customers of both companies.

Consider the following when determining your universal language:

      • How much knowledge does your audience have about the product or process?
      • To reduce misunderstanding of required actions, will you use a limited vocabulary?
      • How/where will you explain key terms that are used often?
4. Update and Distribute Applicable SOPs

Consistent customer experiences are established with consistent internal procedures. Methodically work through the SOPs you organized during your assessment and update each based on the frequency and criticality of use. Even if the steps in an SOP do not need to be updated, the language may need to be. Consider outsourcing to a team of professional technical writers to most efficiently and quickly update SOPs with the common framework, language and content updates.

5. Archive or Destroy Old SOPs
Standardizing each process helped businesses avoid disasters. Once standardized, don’t permit confusion or bad habits. Eliminate old SOPs from shared drives, file cabinets, and work stations. Resist employee attachment to old copies that include hand-written notes. 

For more on developing SOPs...

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A Guide to Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
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Topics: trends, SOPs, documentation