AT&T/DIRECTV – What Doesn’t Work In M&As

I’ve had two recent personal experiences (as distinguished from business work experiences) that involved companies who had undergone either a merger or an acquisition. Needless to say, the experiences were troublesome else I wouldn’t be mentioning them here – unless they were laudatory – which I also do – primarily because laudatory customer service is so rare at the present time. The two companies were AT&T and their merger with and acquisition of DIRECTV, and Frontier Communications and their acquisition of the Verizon landline/internet arm of Verizon Communications. I won’t go into the difficulty with Frontier which is our new service provider for landlines and internet linkages. They worked hard to fix the problem; thus, I’m not inclined to complain – one has to give a company credit for trying. Even though at one point, I was prone to cancel my service with them and called to say so, whereupon the customer service person I was talking with said, “We can’t cancel service until we’ve fixed the problem.” Now, that rejoinder got a hearty laugh from me, to be sure. But the problem with AT&T is far more problematic – primarily because they’re a company that’s so difficult to deal with at the best of times and they’ve managed to infect DIRECTV with the same affliction. And, there also seems to be some double-dealing going on. Back in the day, when my husband worked for Hughes Aircraft, the company developed Directv and we signed on as some of the first customers – Hughes employees were encouraged to do so. During the time that we’ve been customers our “receiver” has never “gone down.” However, now that AT&T is the proud owner, that’s exactly what happened last week. I would have thought nothing of it except for two things: 1) the telephone message when I called in mentioned that they were having problems with a “number of receivers” and they were endeavoring to fix the problem but the wait to talk with someone would be longer; and 2) I’d been told by friends up-state who have AT&T service that “receivers going down” was a chronic problem. I likely would not have minded the extraordinary long wait to talk with someone, if the problem would have been solved. However, it wasn’t – and I was on billable hours – an expensive use of my time. To cut to the chase of this story, I would up spending  numerous hours on the phone trying to find someone to help – ultimately, they promised to send someone out with a new receiver and didn’t show up – more calls followed to find out why not, etc etc. (This kind of “service” was unknown at the original DIRECTV.) At one point, I managed to reach someone who proceeded to try to convince me to accept two additional receivers, “at no cost.” Hmmm – since when have receivers had a cost attached – it’s the service provided through the receivers that costs the money! I had given up on AT&T – the “new” DIRECTV – and was seeking other solutions. But, on a hunch, a week later, I tried the receiver and found it working. That’s where the double-dealing angle comes in – I’ve mentioned earlier that for friends who live in other areas and receive AT&T service that receivers “going down” is characteristic. One wonders why this might be so with DIRECTV customers – the service “routes” were bought outright – why would those suddenly not be working for AT&T? My point in telling the story, however, is that the people that I spoke with in those companies which had been “acquired” were, to a person, “defeated” individuals. They sounded depressed and unenthusiastic about the company prospects. Why IS it that heads of companies DO this to employees? Mergers and acquisitions generally bring misery to all employees concerned in the venture – those in the original company as well as those in the acquired company. At one time, my company participated in these actions (to “provide the new company with culture formation” processes) – but we refuse to get involved in that arena at the present time. Companies who engage in “merging” clearly forget about ALL THE MOVING PARTS. Their employees, the mainstay of the company certainly aren’t considered when contemplating and carrying out these actions. And, as I’ve chronicled in the book by the same name [2nd Edition, published 2014], when ALL THE MOVING PARTS aren’t working together, in a team approach, the company generally founders. If you’re a company leader reading this post who might have been entertaining the notion of merging or acquiring, read the book, ALL THE MOVING PARTS: ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE MANAGEMENT and you’ll figure it out!

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