Most customer journeys are not a one and done interaction. Many involve multiple touchpoints with the customer, and internally with your different support functions. So who does what? How do these functions differ? Is there an opportunity to improve efficiencies across groups?
In the always-on era, you need to be more flexible and responsive in order to meet the growing expectations for faster service and greater transparency. Let’s explore the differences between the front, middle and back office and how organisations can break down these operational silos to maximise resource utilisation, improve customer experience, and reduce costs.
Defining the Front vs. Middle vs. Back Office
As the term implies, staff who are the first seen or heard by your customers work in functions known as the front office. These include in-store or branch sales and service people, as well as agents in your call center. Many organisations focus their customer experience improvement efforts on the front office, which is short-sighted as the back-office has a huge impact on the customer. In fact, according to Aberdeen Group, the #2 cause of customer dissatisfaction is the back office.1
The middle office is typically made up of staff who engage in both customer-facing activities as well as back-end processing functions. For example, the middle office in financial services can include functions such as collections, risk management, and compliance. In insurance, claims adjustors could be considered middle office. They visit clients and gather information via phone to complete reports that are passed on to underwriting for review.
In regards to the customer journey, the back office is where customer goods and service requests are processed. The speed and accuracy with which they process the work directly impacts your customers’ experience. The back office also includes the people behind-the-scenes in support or administrative roles that keep the company operating.
Functions such as accounting, human resources and information technology all fall under back-office operations. They handle work which does not require direct interaction with customers yet is essential for the functioning of your business.
How flexible and responsive your company is depends on how effectively these groups are integrated.
Operational Silos Can Negatively Affect the Customer Journey
To understand how the front, middle and back offices can work together — or fail to communicate properly — in the customer journey, consider Jane’s story. Jane is a customer who wants to get cable services for her home. She calls the company and reaches a contact center agent, who takes her order. The order is then passed on to the back office, where her installation request is processed. All is in good order and Jane’s cable is installed.
One day, her cable service stops working. Jane calls the company to let them know about the issue and how she won’t pay her bill until it’s fixed. The work order is sent to the back-office, but there is a huge backlog because they are shorthanded.
A number of employees were on vacation when the flu hit the department. Jane’s order gets lost and after month end her account is automatically sent to collections for lack of payment.
A member of the collections team (middle office) reaches out to Jane concerning her past-due bill. As you can imagine, Jane is now even more annoyed with the company for its lack of responsiveness and her perception that they are only after her money.
Jane is now shopping for a new cable provider.
How could the cable company have avoided this issue? Let’s be real, if you don’t have the people there to process the work, you don’t have the people, right?
Let’s take a look at one solution to this problem.
The Opportunity: Manage Resources Across Functions
As we’ve seen in Jane’s example, many organisations operate in silos. In industries with seasonal work, one department might be overwhelmed with work, experiencing excessive overtime and stress, while another department is bored and waiting for the end of their shift.
Or, the department hires temporary help who are slower and make more errors due to quick, and often times hurried, training.
So why not cross-train your current employees to perform tasks in other functions when needed? Because it can be tricky. Typical barriers to cross-functional resource utilization include:
- People skills
- Different management processes or approaches in the different functions.
Skills might be the easiest hurdle to conquer. People are adaptable and can be taught new skills. So, if contact center call volumes suddenly spike, trained back-office or branch staff could temporarily be assigned to take calls to help ensure response times are met.
Or during lulls in calls, trained agents can be assigned to help handle processing volumes or make outbound calls for collections. Cross-training resources minimizes the need for overtime and helps ensure customer expectations are met.
Unifying the management processes and approaches can be a bit harder, as each manager or functional VP has his or her own way of doing things. But if shown the value of unifying their approaches and using common processes and reporting, managers typically get on board with the changes.
That leaves technology. How do you align work types, volumes and arrival patterns with the right skilled employees with enough flexibility to respond to changes in customer demand — without sacrificing service or efficiency?
The Solution: A Single, Enterprise Platform for Managing Resources
Verint Workforce Management is a modern, cloud-based solution for planning, forecasting, and scheduling work, as well as optimizing resource utilization and processes across the enterprise — from contact centers to branch — middle office and back-office operations.
The solution offers a single view into all employees, including their respective skills, proficiencies, rank, and availability to handle workload. By leveraging this information, you have the flexibility to quickly align your workforce with your workload, deliver a more consistent customer experience, and benefit from:
- Meeting service-level goals efficiently across front, middle and back-office operations, as well as inbound and outbound phone, email, chat, text, video, and social media channels.
- Increasing customer satisfaction with faster response and turnaround times.
- Obtaining a holistic view of work across resources and functions, with the ability to minimize overtime by better using/assigning staff to manage peaks in workflow.
- Reducing the costs and frustrations associated with scheduling employees.
How is Verint’s Enterprise Workforce Management different from other solutions? Read the eBook: What You Need to Know about Workplace Flexibility.
Learn how Verint has purpose-built functionality to help ensure the solution works for the unique needs of your various business functions.
Are you already sharing resources across functions? Share your story below. Have an opinion as to whether this type of resource sharing would or wouldn’t work at your company? Share your thoughts below.
And read the Guardian Life story to learn how they optimised resources across 4 entities and expanded workforce planning into their back office, increasing capacity by 10 percent to 15 percent and reducing overtime by 30 percent.