What Do You Get When You Combine Social Media and BPO? | Sherpas in Blue Shirts

Hopefully the next generation of consumer analytics.

Want to know what your customers think of your latest product or service? Ask your BPO service provider. Are you launching something new without first speaking with your provider? You may be missing an important piece.

BPO service providers are increasingly focused on helping their clients achieve growth and business success, not just taking costs out and running things better. In many cases, this means getting considerably closer to the relationship their clients have with their end-customers. In hyper-competitive segments like pharmaceuticals, CPG, retail, and telecommunications, these customer relationships are increasingly shaped by social media channels, self-proclaimed and bona fide influencers, and bloggers. And while these industries have for years made investments in customer-oriented business intelligence and analytics tools, they haven’t yet met their full potentials. This is where BPO service providers come into the picture.

Over the past year or so, BPO providers have aggressively invested in the tools and capabilities needed to help their clients better understand consumer sentiments and behavior, as well as influencers’ thinking, and then achieve greater effectiveness in responding to this market feedback. The focus here could be anything from social media monitoring to internal business intelligence and analytics. And many are actively building out capabilities in social media monitoring, data analysis, and advisory capabilities to support their clients with real-time awareness of current, and impending, customer viewpoints, and a better understanding of how to respond to both the good and bad out there. For example, Genpact recently announced its acquisition of EmPower Research, and Capgemini has forged a relationship with Attensity, both of which are social media monitoring and analytics firms. And while IBM has long had strong analytics capabilities, it has increasingly focused Cognos’ resources on deciphering the world of social media.

BPO service providers are going in this direction for a few reasons. First, as the traditional BPO market matures and overall service provider capabilities round out, new sources of service provider differentiation need to be established. For several years now, Everest Group has discussed the steady move toward more industry-specific and verticalized capabilities among those BPO service providers historically focused on the horizontal processes, e.g. HRO, FAO, customer care, etc. Tackling the universal customer relationship challenge goes right to the heart of the industry-specific challenges of several key segments. For many BPO service providers, moving into customer analytics is another step in evolving their value proposition along the spectrum of operational to strategic.

Providers are also driven by client needs. Grappling with social media reminds me of the Greek mythological hydra – once you’ve immobilized one head, two grow in its place. Today’s consumer-centric companies can’t do this alone, and most don’t have the resources or expertise to invest in the needed talent and tools. Leveraging service provider capabilities in service delivery, analytics, tools, and expertise to tackle consumer issues just makes sense. Additionally, BPO service providers have already partnered with their clients in so many areas that they understand the intricacies of their internal workings and challenges. This presents the opportunity to create meaningful linkages between back-office processes (non-core) and front-office (core/revenue) processes in a way that is compelling for both the client and the provider.

I believe the very field of social media monitoring (or whatever we’ll be calling it in the next 12-18 months) is real, and its immediacy is driving priority over the more traditional consumer analytics space. BPO service providers and their clients are taking the reins in shaping a new process area. However, the key question in my mind is…how can BPO providers drive more value out of this experiment in consumer-centric analytics and consulting compared to past generations of business intelligence and customer analytics? I think the secret sauce lies in combining customer insight with execution.

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