We’re reading a lot about the benefits of blending the front and back office, but it’s still a fairly new concept for many businesses. As with most new approaches, teething problems will arise whether they are related to staff or the processes that are being put in place.
In our experience there are common mistakes that can easily be made, so we’re going to focus on what not to do when blending the back office with your front office!
Technology will play a vital role in blending and not having the right solutions in place will mean you’ll never truly be integrated. Back office operations are usually more complicated and diverse than the front office and often integrate with far more departments, many with their own IT systems. You’ll need to be able to integrate data streams from multiple sources so look for technology with sophisticated analytics, automation and workflow management platforms.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can implement your usual WFM solution across front and back office, because you need something over and above what that can offer. You need:
- to be able to easily extract data from disparate systems, so it’s important to look for a platform agnostic solution
- to look for a solution that is designed to accommodate the greater complexity of the back office
- to look for a solution that can be deployed across multiple systems at once.
Creating better Customer Experiences
Ultimately, we all want to create a better customer experience; however customer expectations are changing around how they want to receive service. Increasingly customers are looking to self-serve, they want to be able to go on-line and use chatbots, IM, and self-help web portals rather than sitting in a telephone queue. It’s important that you don’t expose those customers to clunky back office systems that will cause more confusion and frustration, meaning they have to ring you anyway!
If you’re going to blend the front and back office, you also need to make sure that whoever the customer speaks to has access to all the information they need to serve that customer. They need to be able to see past interactions and track where tasks are. Don’t make the mistake of not having that information available across all teams. When it comes to implementing technology to serve both the front and the back office make sure optimising the customer experience is at the front of the queue.
It’s no secret that certain job roles suit certain personalities, which is a challenge for HR when it comes to blending the front and back office. Your front office staff will be recruited for their customer service skills and your back office staff will be recruited for their attention to detail.
Don’t make the mistake of recruiting people without ensuring they have the appropriate skills to blend job roles otherwise you could end up compromising customer service. This not only applies to your agents and administrative staff but your supervisors and team leaders. Have you given them appropriate training to ensure they can manage both the front and back office? It requires more thought than usual when it comes to the recruitment process.
To help your back office staff transition, you could provide them with tools to support them through calls, with easy to follow prompts and vice versa providing front office staff with guides on what to do when asked to help with administrative tasks.
Another common oversight is failing to get buy in from both employees and management. It’s important to involve both teams from the outset to ensure the integration is successful. If you involve staff in the set-up process they will often be less resistant to change and will fully embrace a blended workforce.
Don’t run before you can walk… start by identifying a few smaller processes to blend, get buy-in from your staff and then demonstrate how the improvements made can be beneficial to both staff and customers.
Planning and Scheduling
Even though your objective here is to blend the contact centre and the back office, it’s not always appropriate to blend everything and this should include planning and scheduling. Look at shared SLA’s across the front and back office to ensure everyone is working towards common goals, ensure the right number of people are scheduled to manage the anticipated workload. Scheduling workload and the methods used will differ across front and back office.
Your Contact Centre for example, will be focussing on queues, handling times, managing peaks and troughs and delivering a positive outcome first time, which makes it difficult to have the right number of agents available at the right time. In the back office, time has traditionally been less of a factor, making it easier to get staffing levels right, however managing the backlogs and adhering to Service Level Agreements can be trickier. Your back office staff will be more focussed on being thorough and accurate, so scheduling methods for the front and back office should differ completely.
Lastly, when it comes to planning and scheduling, don’t let staff in the back office ‘cherry pick’ their work. Ensure they are processing tasks which are best for the business and avoid back office solutions that don’t have a ‘get next’ approach to work allocation. With a ‘get next’ approach, the system will break up complex tasks and allocate to staff with the most appropriate skills as well as prioritising based on an ongoing assessment of demand.
The old rules for how you deliver outstanding customer service are changing. It’s important to have a rethink about how you can use your resources more efficiently to create a better customer experience and understand that the responsibility of that experience can no longer be isolated to one single area of the business.
To find out more about blending the front and back office, download our paper today.