This article was written by Pankaj Kohli.
When we think of customer experience strategy, we often only consider the interactions between a brand and its customers, such as touchpoints for information request or aftersales service. These customer-facing departments are commonly referred to as the front office and are the most visible functions of any company, using channels like phone or chat support.
However, there is also a back office, and the difference between a slick front office and the back office can resemble a duck gliding through water. On the surface, everything appears smooth and serene. Yet, underwater, the duck’s feet are paddling like crazy to push itself forward.
The administration and support functions of a business, such as product onboarding, catalogue management, content moderation, finance and accounting, etc., usually comprise the back office. Companies have often tried to eliminate or automate their back office, only to realize that some functions require critical human judgement. Although complete elimination is difficult, it is possible to improve the efficiency of such back-office processes.
There are many pitfalls for companies that ignore or neglect their back office. It’s a myth that these processes do not impact customer experience simply because they are non-customer-facing. On the contrary, if these processes are efficient, not only can customer contacts be eliminated, but those who contact can also benefit from a smooth experience.
By exploring the possibilities for back-office transformation, you can enhance the visibility and transparency of these processes, reduce operating costs, boost business agility, improve the customer experience, and better engage your employees. Back office staff appreciates when their most repetitive and mundane tasks are simplified or automated, so they can then focus on more interesting, value-adding tasks.
In a recent Harvard Business Review white paper, the Teleperformance team highlighted some of the pitfalls of neglecting the back office and the steps you can take to improve the situation in your own business, including:
1. Productivity Measures: Process automation in the back office is the most crucial step you can take to improve productivity across your entire business. Sixty-five percent of the executives surveyed in the HBR research supports this view. The study also found that silos separating departments are the biggest challenge for executives planning to streamline a back office.
2. Automation: Automation, artificial intelligence, and data analytics are the tools that can help to pivot your entire organization. Automation allows you to remove mundane and repetitive manual processes, check for errors, and create further opportunities to improve the process flow. Unattended bots can handle back-office operations 24/7, leading to enormous productivity gains.
3. Workforce Management (WFM): WFM technology helps to forecast activity levels for processes and then allocates resources to handle the predicted workload. The introduction of WFM, combined with automation, can dramatically improve back-office productivity by ensuring the right people and processes are in place at the right time. This is absolutely critical if you want to improve your back office.
4. Work-from-Home (WFH): WFH is a strategy that most companies have been maintaining for some time now, and will continue for the long term, if not permanently. With a more distributed workforce and less opportunity to merely work on issues in a single location, it is even more imperative that the back office gets renewed attention. Manual processes in the office are one thing, but when spread across multiple locations, that’s a major pitfall waiting to happen.
In the post-COVID-19 business environment, companies will need to search for every opportunity to succeed. Some will not make it because they are not agile enough to change their business model. Streamlining your back office and boosting productivity is a great way to not only reduce cost in the short term but also to help position your business flexibly enough to change and adapt to a future new normal quickly.
TP Talks: Curating the Back-Office to Drive Member Experience
In this session, Teleperformance, together with Melissa O’Brien, Research Director at HfS:
- Highlight the existing front, middle, and back-office silos
- Introduce HfS’s exciting concept of Intelligent OneOffice™, their vision, frameworks, and best practices for integration
- Provide insights into integrating them to OneOffice™ and how sharing synergies between the two divisions will lead to an improved customer experience
- Discuss real-life examples using case studies of specific back-office processes that can be integrated with the front office to lower the total cost of ownership
About the author: Pankaj is the Chief Transformation Officer for Teleperformance CEMEA. He has dual masters in Computer Science & Management and is a Six Sigma Blackbelt, with keen interest in Analytics and Design Thinking.