We all know the pitfalls of poorly planned mergers and acquisitions—diminished shareholder value, damaged internal cultures—but I recently had a chance to experience first-hand yet another significant snag of corporate marriages. My husband and I are currently shopping for a mortgage, and a number of friends recommended Bank of America to us because of a special loan program they have for young physicians (my husband's doing his residency training). Wanting to speak with someone face-to-face—someone who would know local real estate customs—we walked into a local B of A branch in our neighborhood and asked about the program. We were greeted with a blank stare.
"I don't know about that loan," the bank rep told us, dimly. He didn't apologize for not knowing or hand us off to a more experienced manager, either. He simply said that no one in the office, a Fleet branch as of a few months ago, had been trained yet on the Bank of America products. "Well," I asked, startled at his response, "what about the zillion other Bank of America branches that have recently exploded all over New York? Isn't there anywhere in the city we could sit and talk to someone about Bank of America's mortgage products?" No, he told us, flatly. No one in the branches had yet been trained on the new loan programs.
It is one thing to see service slip a little when two companies merge—employees are unsettled, after all. But complete ignorance of the products your new company sells? Couldn't they have waited to rebrand the branch until their employees were up to speed? Changing out the signage but not the knowledge is the quickest route to turning off new customers.