Meet Brian Smith. As US Customer Operations Market Leader, he helps
clients solve one of their biggest problems—delivering seamless end-to-end
experiences by straightening out the “messy middle.”

Brian and his teams work with companies to deliver exceptional experiences for their employees and their customers by solving for one of the most complex and vulnerable areas of their business—the middle office. He is also responsible for building the technology ecosystem, alliance relationships, and talent acquisition strategy to support this offering.

Brian has spent his career in consulting, working primarily in the technology, telco, and media sectors.

After taking a short hiatus to start his own SaaS company, he joined Deloitte over eight years ago. Here, he’s found the perfect opportunity to tap into his entrepreneurial spirit and help clients realize value through sales, service, and marketing innovation. 

  • Brian, tell us more about the middle office and the business problems you help solve.

    Simply put, our team focuses on helping clients deliver the best possible experiences to their employees and customers. We are focused on defining strategies and solving challenges across the front office and middle office where connective functions like sales operations, quote-to-cash, and revenue operations perform essential but often overlooked roles. All too often, visible seams exist between these teams and related systems, and that’s where the customer and employee experience often suffers.

    In many organizations, that seam lies between the front and back office. We’re solving critical experience problems that result in things like revenue leakage, pricing and product inefficiencies, manual or disconnected quote-to-cash processes, error-prone order management issues, underperforming sales teams due to poor planning, forecasting, and incentive compensation, and poor digital commerce experiences.

  • What is meant by experience delivery? How is it changing, especially as the world grows increasingly digital?

    It’s safe to say that all our clients are focused on delivering better experiences to their employees and/or their customers. When we talk about experience delivery, we’re talking about the entire interaction with a person or brand. For example, it’s not just how easy it is for a customer to buy a life insurance policy. It also matters how long it takes for the company to underwrite that policy. And ultimately how fast and easy it was for a consumer to procure the coverage. It’s not just about a step in the process like the beauty of a website or mobile app, it’s about the entire experience from first contact to fulfillment of the product or service.

    As we design experiences, we need to design for them holistically, with intent, and with the understanding they should make life easier for the human engaging in that experience. As the world becomes more digital and more channel agnostic, connecting what you deliver with how you deliver is even more crucial to that experience.

  • Today’s customers expect a smooth experience with brands, from placing an order to delivery and beyond. Where do organizations sometimes fall short?

    As a consumer and as a consultant, I see organizations having opportunities to improve across the spectrum. Most frequently, the root cause is a disconnect somewhere in the flow as it goes from person to person, team to team, or system to system, exposing vulnerability in the seams. Our Customer Operations team focuses specifically on the middle office processes, so we’ve got a front row seat to the messiness that exists in those seams. The manual processes, the spreadsheets, the “hanging by a thread” practices that stitch some part of the business to another. We see it between sales and service, marketing and sales, sales and sales operations, and business and IT, to name a few.

    It only takes one problem or a break in one step of the journey to disappoint the customer. If you’re not designing holistically, the likelihood of failing somewhere is high. As consumers, we’ve all been there. Frankly, consumers don’t care where or why there’s an issue, but they know when an experience is broken. And they go elsewhere as soon as they can.

  • Sales operations, quote-to-cash and revenue operations are among the functions squarely in the middle of the customer’s journey. What steps can companies take to connect customer-facing functions to business operations?

    It’s all about being experience-led. Designing end-to-end with the entire experience in mind. We often find that companies approach the design and implementation separately. They’ll invest in a large sales and service transformation focused on a new CRM solution but won’t always involve sales operations. Not intentionally, it’s just not their “area.” Now their planning, forecasting, and incentive compensation isn’t intentionally brought into the design considerations. Later, the sales ops or finance teams will undergo their own projects to “connect” to what has been implemented. Similarly, the downstream pricing, product, quoting, invoicing, fulfillment, and revenue management needs will not have been integrated into the solution design.

    Building those connections across your entire business requires making a strategic commitment to digital, creating consistent experiences across channels, using data to empower employees, and creating a culture anchored on innovation and execution. It isn’t easy but creating that center of gravity helps companies improve employee and customer engagement, build stronger relationships, earn trust, and realize sustainable value.

  • What emerging technologies do you believe we’ll be seeing more in customer operations?

    Likely not a surprise to many, but I predict we’ll be seeing more AI and process bionics applications arise across these middle office functions. While they both exist today, they haven’t been woven into the fabric. Both technologies enable tasks to be performed in ways that resemble human cognitive functions. They both get to the heart of one of the greatest opportunities for businesses to improve—making digital experiences more human. The work we’re doing across Customer Operations is ripe for this evolution.

  • So, how do you enjoy spending your time outside of work?

    My wife and I have three kids, and each one is very active in different ways. I spend most every moment away from work with them. As a consultant who travels, the change in work during the pandemic has been amazing. I’ve had a chance to become involved in their lives in ways I never have in the past. I love to watch them witness things for the first time. We love to travel together. I’m in my happy place when I’m with my family in the mountains. I also enjoy spending time ocean diving and playing very mediocre golf.
  • Tell me about it, does golf ever get easier?!? One more question before we wrap up. What are some of the causes or issues that you are most interested in?

    Perhaps in part because of my family and concern for future generations, I’m fascinated by conversations around technological social responsibility, especially concerning ethical AI and social media. I’m also passionate about climate change, the headwinds to progress, and the accountability that lies with each of us.

  • I couldn’t agree more, and it’s critical that we’re having those important conversations now.

    Brian, we appreciate your time and the insights you’ve shared on the middle office and transforming experience delivery. Let’s stay in touch.
Brian is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP and leads Deloitte Digital's US Customer Operations practice. He helps companies build and modernize their commercial operations by shaping the strategy and execution of business-critical middle office capabilities.