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Tips for Overcoming Common Back Office Challenges

The front office and back office in the contact center world are a lot like the concept of yin and yang. Described as seemingly opposite or contrary forces, they may be complementary, interconnected, interdependent, and give rise to each other as they relate to one another.

What contact center leaders have come to understand is that the ecosystem of customer management depends heavily on the inputs and outputs of every link in the contact center value chain, regardless of where or what the office is.

Back office

The front office is a lineup of contact center team members that interact directly with customers, their supervisors, client services (for BPO’s), the immediate staff as well as the management team and executives. These are the people on the front lines, the ones which the spotlight typically shines in good times and bad.

Your back office is a little more complex. You have:

  • Your QA staff, which evaluates the quality of interactions with customers
  • Your human resources staff, whose focus is on recruiting your front office employees
  • Your workforce management staff, who schedule and benchmark millions of different mission-critical variables
  • Your IT team members that program and support the infrastructure and software that we use to perform our tasks

All these roles together make the work of the front office better, faster and cheaper.

Neal will be speaking at ICMI Contact Center Expo, this May 21-24 in Orlando, FL. Attend his session: "Using Customer Feedback as a Strategic Measure."

The functions of both front and back office are inextricably entwined and interdependent. One cannot function for long without the other, and while their inherent job descriptions and responsibilities contrast, many of the same tips apply to both and propel contact centers to overcome challenges.

It takes a lot of experience to be able to run both front and back offices with efficiency and success. Here are four essential tips that will help you with your back-office functions to get you on your way.

Define and Measure Back Office Objectives

In esteemed colleague Jeff Toister’s book, The Service Culture Handbook, he highlights the importance of defining culture by first identifying quantitative and qualitative objectives for components of an organization. The same theory applies to back-office departments. When setting these objectives as part of the company and customer care goals, you must also understand how and why these back-office goals matter and how they influence the overall objectives for the teams at large. Utilize systems like ISO or Six Sigma to tie the disparate groups together across the enterprise.

Incentivize the Back Office

Frontline players typically receive recognition (monetary and otherwise) for their role in meeting or exceeding these objectives. The back office must also be recognized under structures that are equally and/or more lucrative or beneficial than the front office. Incentives better engage these employees and help them understand the importance of their overall role in the customer journey, customer satisfaction, and other roles important to the organization. Create shared objectives across front office and back office to ensure teams are synchronized and working off the same hymn sheet.

Invest in Back Office Staff Training

Organizations that train and invest in the education and exposure of their front office must do the same for their back office. Back office staff should be sent to conferences and travel to meet with clients (for BPO’s), or participate in customer-facing activities to better understand the customer journey and experience. Investing in their growth and learning will give them an understanding of the tools and marketplace dynamics that are increasingly accessible to all organizations to serve customers better.

Shadow Back & Front Office Seats

Many companies practice shadowing, and our industry should be no exception. When non-contact center team members are exposed to what its like to work on the front lines, their eyes are opened to the difficult tasks that contact center agents face. Ultimately, they return to their functions with a better understanding and appreciation of the contact center. The same strategy applies to the back office. Scheduling a day for back-office employees to sit in on HR interviews, QA calls or chats, or urgent matters dealt with by the Help Desk, creates heightened understanding and appreciation for the critical roles fulfilled by both front and back office.

After operating an outsourced contact center for many years, I have learned the importance of team building across the enterprise to accomplish diverse common objectives. Only through the unification of the front and back office teams can the strategy to meet and exceed those objectives be accomplished. There is never a contact center easy button, but when the back office believes it is just as valuable to the enterprise as the front office, the yin and yang synergy rings true.

Like dominoes, customer satisfaction and effort, problem resolution, quality, and all other customer journey metrics will fall in line when contact center management embraces these tips.