Richard Mill from Business Systems explains why CIOs need to focus on blending the front and back office – putting the customer at the centre of digital transformation to give them the engagement and interaction they are demanding
It is little surprise that analyst firm Gartner has given CIOs a simple call to action for 2019: blend your front and back office. It accepts that organisations interact with customers in different ways. Gartner believes this is the way forward for the best results.
Optimise resources, no matter where they sit
Gartner defines front office as the mechanisms that improve consumer interactions such as customer loyalty programs or feedback channels, as well as sales. The Back office, by contrast, includes departments such as finance, IT, marketing, production, development, logistics, HR and so on. Gartner maintains that the back office can cut costs required to service customers by putting together customer journey maps as a solid foundation for internal developments. It also sees digitalisation in the back office as a way to reduce consumer engagement budget. At the same time, merging front and back office can actually work to a CIO’s benefit – by helping retain the digital customer.
The front office has been pivotal in delivering customer service as it is the first point of contact for the consumer. With more and more consumers engaging with organisations digitally, the distinction between front and back office has become unclear. Consumers now want the same level of service from the back office in terms of issuing bills, order processing and so forth as they get from their front office experience.
CIOs need to take a holistic approach to blending the front and back office on the customer’s digital journey and think beyond the customer contact centre. This isn’t a new way of thinking. Back in 2010, HMRC recommended the use of technology and ‘work blending’ as a way of optimising resources. But nearly a decade on, companies are still lagging behind when it comes to blending front and back office.
More recently, the International Customer Management Institute stated that, despite HMRC’s counsel that applying workforce optimisation techniques to the back office should be top of the business agenda – businesses were still failing to utilise workforce optimisation (WFO) technology to their advantage.
Many CIOs have put the blended approach to one side because of the challenges it presents. These challenges tend to be cultural as much as operational and are not the hurdles many envisage. They just require careful transformation planning.
‘Blending’ is essential
If you think about it, the majority of customer queries and requests are not dealt with at first point of contact, but are routinely sent to the back office to be processed. The problem is that the omnichannel approach to contact and service channels we see emerging – from SMS and email to social media and chatbots – has removed the chain of responsibility.
To meet this demand for highly responsive, agile, premium quality customer experience (CX) across all touchpoints, it is essential that the traditional structure changes.
According to Gartner, one of the key characteristics of a workforce optimisation solution (WFO) is that it “integrates disparate contact centre technologies – including contact centre performance management, e-learning, interaction analytics, quality management and workforce management”. As customer touch points multiply CX is becoming a competitive differentiator. There is no need to keep optimisation technology which offers quantifiable SLAs and targets for core business processes within the bounds of the contact centre.
WFO is built on the premise that, by accessing performance data in real time you can drive improvements. These improvements include enhancing service levels, improving customer satisfaction, paring operational costs and lowering duplication and waste.
Omnichannel options have brought increased technological complexity to the front office. At the same time, back office operations are more diverse and complicated by their nature, supporting numerous departments from finance, to HR, production, logistics and so forth. Many have legacy systems that support largely manual processes.
The good news is that workforce optimisation technology exists that combines these capabilities. It provides the right tools and the right level of advanced functionality to integrate front and back office. Look for a platform that is modular, flexible and easy to deploy. Most importantly it needs to be vendor neutral (i.e. able to work with multiple enterprise systems), and highly scalable.
Seek out a solution that will offer functionality over and above the features which a regular WFO suite would provide, including advanced analytics and reporting, smart work allocation and case management, robotic process automation and so forth.
Of course there will always be differences between front and back office due to different scheduling priorities and time allocations per task. With its robust analytics and smart allocation systems, however, modern workforce optimisation technology can be used to efficiently feed data through the inbound interaction systems to give customers accurate estimates or updates on completion times that they are now demanding. And, importantly, blending can prepare you for the rapid multiplication of digital touch points that is coming to the forefront.
Business Systems (UK) Ltd specialises in providing call recording and workforce optimisation solutions and today ranks as one of the most experienced independent providers with expertise covering systems design, project management, implementation and ongoing service delivery and support.