HfS brings O'Brien's brains on board

November 16, 2015 | Phil Fersht
Melissa O'Brien is Research Director, Contact Center and Omni-Channel Operations, HfS (Click for Bio)

Melissa O'Brien is Research Director, Contact Center and Omni-Channel Operations, HfS (Click for Bio)

Pretty much everything we cover at HfS has a contact center at the heart of the process, whether it's an insurance claim, a supplier inventory call, a sales inquiry, an analytics request, and so on....

So we realized it high time we actually brought on an analyst who has set up contact center operations around the world, lived and breathed the offshore experience, has intimate knowledge of the service providers, the technologies and the skills needed to make these things function effectively.  We also realized we needed that analyst to be expert at kick-boxing to keep us all in order.  So join me in welcoming a great talent to educate us all on the future of the contact center and omni-channel operations, Melissa O'Brien...

Welcome Melissa!  Can you share a little about your background and why you have chosen research as your career path? 

Thank you for the welcome, I am very excited to join the HfS team! I have been following contact center operations and customer experience as an analyst for the last four and a half years, and I previously worked within the BPO industry in various roles. I’ve been an implementation manager, designing and transitioning processes from onshore to offshore- managed client relationships, and have also developed and administered training to groups of new contact center employees and to the trainers themselves. When I got the opportunity to work in market research, I had found the perfect combination of continuing to work with clients on solving problems, but also getting the chance to do a lot of strategic thinking and writing about my domain. I really enjoy research because you’re always learning as the market is constantly changing and evolving – I love the challenge of always having to be that step ahead!

Why did you choose to join HfS… and why now?

I have been working in the contact center operations market for the past 10 years and my passion is understanding what makes great customer experiences. HfS’ focus on the As-a-Service Economy is at the heart of how the contact center is evolving today, and the way that companies are now looking at customer experience, which is a much more holistic and outside-in approach. Ambitious contact center operations providers have the potential to use technology, talent and process expertise to improve how companies interact with their customers to have a major impact on their clients’ strategic business objectives. These services influence critical metrics like Net Promoter Score (NPS), which is not only indicative of customer satisfaction levels, but can actually predict revenue performance for an organization. So, I’m looking forward to diving deep into this critical alignment between customer interaction and business outcomes, within the theme of the As-a-Service Economy.

I also think that HfS is a really socially intelligent company in leveraging digital content, the web and social networks to reach customers and promote discussions. This approach is congruent with many trends I’ve been watching in omni-channel communications, and it’s just a smart approach to business. The HfS events programs, like our intimate buyer summits, are very complementary to this model- leveraging a diverse global community and furthering that social dialogue. I’m excited to participate in these conversations and be a part of the thought leadership that HfS is driving.

What are the topics and big issues that you will focus on in your analyst role?

An important topic will be the role of intelligent automation on contact center operations and BPO. Automation has been prevalent in contact center operations for many years, but there is so much maturing that can be done to make automation in this space intelligent and more complementary to the labor components of the business. The human element is something that is transforming as well, as the impact of technology and digital channels is shifting the skills needed for BPO talent; I’ll be exploring in depth how the talent and technology are shifting and how to find the right balance.

There is tremendous opportunity in this space for analytics to drive better customer engagement, so I will be giving a lot of attention to how data and analytics tools are being used. It’s so important that enterprises act on the customer data they have more intelligently – it’s one thing to collect data, but another to use it to make real-time decisions to improve the customer experience. Given that omni-channel communication is driving convergence and synchronicity of contact center with marketing, I’ll also focus on research that examines these relationships ad synergies. I will be working across the HfS analyst team to collaborate on research where our coverage areas intersect, in particular around key themes like analytics, automation, cognitive, cloud and digital.

And what trends and developments are capturing your attention today - especially in your world of omnichannel and contact center?

What’s fundamentally changing, today, is the importance of the customer experience placing the contact center as an increasingly strategic part of part of the enterprise. The old model was about handling customer inquiries as quickly and cheaply as possible, often with not much forethought to how those interactions affect a company’s brand and the overall customer experience. The commoditization of products and services along with rapidly expanding communication channels has made the experience a customer has with a company or brand its greatest differentiator. As a result, more companies are making customer experience a strategic corporate imperative- trying to understand the customer journey and its impacts on a company’s financial performance. With this perspective, it is impossible to dismiss contact center as a transactional cost center; it’s an integral part of a greater strategy that needs to examine the experience through the entire customer lifecycle and across all communication channels. In industries such as retail, insurance and banking, the actual “products” are pretty much standard across the board, so it’s the customer experience that has become the true differentiator. The customer engagement strategy is what is making or breaking many business today.

Melissa_Bentley

Melissa gets inspiration from her coonhound, Bentley

A key part of this, which has shaken up this space, is the role of digital communication channels, in particular social networks, for customer engagement. Customer-facing social networks have primarily been a function of marketing departments to date, pushing out content and driving clicks, but the fact that consumers are using social as a channel for inquiries, complaints, and as a kind of back door to the call center when they aren’t getting their desired resolution, has forced companies to look at social as an engagement platform. This has had numerous impacts, including the way departments communicate internally within organizations. It has brought some broken processes into a very public light, driving companies to reevaluate and re-design customer- impacting processes, including back office functions.

The thing I am most excited about, within these developments, is the potential for using the vast amounts of customer data that are constantly being generated to better understand and ultimately improve customer experiences. This is the greatest area of opportunity for service providers to transcend the traditional call center model, not just providing omni-channel BPO, but also consulting for CX best practices and customer journeys and using analytics to drive value for their clients. This lends itself to more collaborative partnerships and outcome based engagements; I’m seeing more examples of buyers partnering with their service providers to look at customer engagement in a much more strategic way.

And what are you working on first for our clients, Melissa... any sneak previews into what we can expect?

I’ll be getting to work on a contact center operations Blueprint for the first part of next year, followed by some specific research around how companies are handling social customer engagement and service provider offerings in that space. Vertical specific BPO themes will be high on the agenda, in particular as they relate to customer engagement.

Welcome to HfS, Melissa.  We're delighted you have chosen HfS as your analytical home and can’t wait to see you first soundbites hit the presses =)

Posted in: Analytics and Big DataBusiness Process Outsourcing (BPO)Buyers' Sourcing Best Practices

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