In most organisations, the term “back office” typically refers to the people responsible for carrying out the processes which ensure the efficient and effective delivery of customer services, yet without any verbal or customer facing interaction – because back office typically remains behind the scenes.
A big impact
However, don’t take this lack of direct or verbal customer engagement as meaning the back office doesn’t have an impact on customer experience – in fact they are touching the customer many more times than the front office and more often than not on complex multiple stages of work. This means they proportionally have more responsibility for ensuring a high level customer service and consistent experience. Customer service excellence is only made possible by an efficient back office that supports customer-facing staff. And when the back office under performs it’s not just the the front office that suffers it is the whole organisation that faces higher costs, eroded efficiency, and most importantly, declining customer service and satisfaction. With such high levels of complexity and shear quantity of tasks this naturally creates an area where compliance becomes more challenging to stay on top of which creates risk.
A different level of complexity – multiple channels, tasks, processes and locations
Back office can be a very broad term, and depending on the nature of the organisation, it can encompass a wide variety of functions, including applications processing, payments and order processing, sales support, claims management and complaints handling. The diverse nature of back office functions means that the tasks and workflows can look very different from those in the front office. The length of time allocated to task completion can vary enormously, and many process may involve multiple steps and inputs from separate teams.
Front and back office shared objectives
Without the right systems in place to collect data the back office typically lacks the wealth of metrics that the front office uses to inform scheduling and resource allocation. From routine tasks such as data entry through to underwriting or shipping can vary significantly in complexity and time to complete. So back office operations frequently lack the precision and accuracy enjoyed by the front office. However, the objectives remain broadly the same – to ensure all work inputs are captured, processed efficiently, executed accurately and measured effectively to ensure that standards of customer service are maintained, SLAs are met, and regulatory guidelines are complied with.
Back office workforce optimisation
Back office optimisation seeks to apply the same rigorous disciplines and practices that have delivered such enormous improvements in front office performance over the past decade. This approach requires a commitment to organisational change, yet the benefits can be significant:
Improved operational agility
Accurate resource allocation
Precise performance metrics
Greater clarity of operational performance in key areas
Accurate forecasting and scheduling
Yet perhaps the greatest benefit of back office optimisation is the positive impact on customer experience. Increased operational efficiency and agility creates, almost as a by-product, an enhanced customer experience. Customer queries are resolved more effectively, errors are reduced, turnaround times are squeezed, and re-works are reduced. As a consequence of this enhanced customer experience, customer retention and loyalty quickly follow suit, and customer advocacy trends upwards – all key objectives of the front office, yet supported by improved back office operations.
This is post 2 of a 6 part series on back office optimisation. Click here to read post 3 which discusses the value that back office optimisation delivers and the core areas where significant improvement can be achieved.