South-Western - Management  
Corporate Culture Keeps Close to Customer Needs
Topic Internal Environment and Culture
Key Words Corporate mergers, culture integration
InfoTrac Reference A148672914
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News Story

The culture at AmerisourceBergen is defined by an almost obsessive need to be close to its customers and to understand their motivations. The company was formed from the merger of two wholesaler organizations, one on the West Coast and one on the East. The integration of the two companies and their respective cultures has taken five years and has been a deliberate process of building and maintaining ties with customers and enhancing the support system for those customers based on the best practices developed by both companies.

With the merger, AmerisourceBergen adopted what it calls customer-first ground rules, which means that the first priority in the whole process is to make sure that customers always come first in all decision-making. The process of merging the two companies was done gradually, with technology and work systems converted in a way that would be as invisible to customers as possible.

The company also made the decision to maintain both original sales forces. ABC executives call the 500-person sales team the company’s core asset. The salespeople are the key to bringing the core capabilities of the huge company to localized markets.

Five years after the initial merger, the company has shifted priorities to becoming more engaged with the individual proprietor. The needs of the retail customers drive the kinds of programs AmerisourceBergen develops for the marketplace. Customers have a lot of choices for pharmacies. Those that offer the best services and know their customer base well will be the winners. Independent chains, especially, need to focus on service to differentiate themselves from the ubiquitous chains. At ABC, the parent company focuses on the things that will bring customers in the store, but it is the way they are treated once they are in the store that will make all the difference.

Because the company has proceeded so meticulously with the merger, the results have been a larger, stronger company that can capitalize on its unique strengths to better serve the needs of its customers.

Questions
1.

List three things that have helped to make the merger of Amerisource and Bergen a success internally.

2.

List three things that have helped to make the merger of Amerisource and Bergen a success with their customer base.

3.

How has the new company dealt with environmental change?

4.

Big mergers are often unsuccessful. What lessons could be taken from this company’s successful experience? Be prepared to discuss your thoughts in class.

Source "Corporate Culture Keeps Close to Customer Needs,” Drug Store News, July 17, 2006, v28 i9 p. 46(1).
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