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How to Transform your contact centre and back office

Global markets are advancing at an overwhelming pace and rapid developments in technology have contributed to this growth and change.  However, much of the technology that organisations are focussing on today are for optimising the workforce and improving the customer experience in the front office.  So why are organisations missing a trick when it comes to technology in the back office when the tangible benefits are far reaching?

The analyst firm Gartner characterises the front office as the systems that improve customer interactions such as feedback channels and loyalty programs.  In terms of the back office, Gartner recognises it as having the potential to reduce costs by outlining customer journey maps, guiding internal developments and using digitalisation to cut the cost of consumer engagement.  So why are organisations seemingly slow to adopt technology for the back office?

Back offices are still relying on manual processes and spreadsheets to fulfil their workforce, operational and compliance needs, despite the fact that proven strategies can transform them into centres of excellence and innovation.  Proven strategies such as business process re-engineering, analytics, automation, best practice adoption and self-serve.  So, relying on these outdated processes can be risky. 

 

Related article: When was the last time you revised your back office operations?

We’ve seen that regulators and auditors are becoming less tolerant of spreadsheets as they are not auditable, are open to error, require manual intervention, have volume limitations and despite best efforts version control is hard to administer.

But organisations must have their reasons for not pursuing these new technologies.  It could be to do with fear of change, fear of being early adopters, company culture, the need to access a multitude of systems or the challenge of fragmented and siloed teams and departments.

With increasing economic and customer demands, the need to minimise risk, reduce costs and manage compliance issues, the reality is that back offices need to be more effective and efficient. So how do they do this?

Investing in Technology

Back offices are typically fragmented with siloed teams, departments and locations, all of which are likely to be using a multitude of systems.  This can result in long processing times, lack of visibility of what your staff are doing, missed SLA’s, poor customer service, unengaged staff and general inefficiencies and errors.  Commonly Team Leaders and Managers will also struggle to improve staff engagement and productivity as well as identifying where there are skill shortages if they do not have access to real-time information.

Related article: How to overcome lack of visibility in the back office

Organisations may have already started to invest in technology to automate their back office workflows and processes, but they also need to look further and introduce technologies to optimise staff productivity and effectiveness.

Furthermore, the evolution of technology solutions such as the Cloud, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are proving useful to enhance or even replace manual processes.  Coupling these technologies with transformational strategies around analytics, best practices adoption, self-service and more, stands organisations in good stead allowing them to grow and embrace on-going challenges.

The return on investment can be substantial (often realised in a very short timeframe).  Seeing that these results can be achieved organisations are starting to act by investing in technology specifically designed to reduce operating costs, increase productivity & effectiveness, deliver high standards of customer service and ensure consistent quality to minimise risk in the back office.

How can back office technology benefit your workforce? 

Whether you’re looking to increase the productivity and effectiveness of back office Administrators/Agents, empower Team Leaders with real-time data, provide BI Manager’s with the tools they need to drive positive change or help your Operations Director reduce costs and streamline work, you need to be looking at back office technology - now!

So why embrace back office technology?  What specific overarching business goals can this technology take care of?  Here are just a few examples:

  • Resources your organisation correctly with the right skills
  • Understands what your agents are doing with real-time statistics in terms of productivity and effectiveness
  • Provides detailed metrics and insights for overall performance to drive positive change
  • Provides visibility of process bottle necks, quality issues, compliance risks and where costs can be cut
  • Reduces lengthy processing times with automation
  • Enables digital transformation to support and promote customer self-service
  • Identifies opportunities to improve the customer journey and outcomes
  • Reduces the reliance on spreadsheets to understand your operations

Improved workflows, process automation opportunities, improved productivity and significantly reduced overheads can be realised using a comprehensive Back Office Workforce Optimisation solution.

What are the 'must-haves' when looking for a back office solution? 

When looking at Back Office Workforce Optimisation technology to implement, look for a solution that is platform agnostic - after all you will still need to access your various back office solutions.  According to Gartner, one of the key attributes of a workforce optimisation solution is that it ‘integrates disparate contact centre technologies – including contact centre performance management, e-learning, interaction analytics, quality management and workforce management.’ 

With customer touchpoints proliferating, the customer experience is becoming a very important competitive differentiator, so it’s also imperative to have a system that caters for all channels of interactions and is flexible enough to add new ones as and when you need them.

The very foundation of Workforce Optimisation (WFO) solutions and strategies is that access to real-time performance data drives immediate improvements, so comprehensive Management Information (MI) is a ‘must have’ for any truly scalable solutions.  If configured correctly, MI will be an invaluable element to strategic decision making and allocation of resources.

It’s important to choose a back office solution that offers functionality over and above the features provided by your regular WFO suite.  These could include

  • advanced analytics and reporting
  • smart work allocation (let the system decide correct allocation of work tasks based on skills, customer SLA’s and business priorities)
  • Case management
  • Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Blending your front and back office should also be factored into the decision making process - is the system capable of doing what experts deem to be the ‘latest stage in evolution of WFO strategies’ to improve service levels, boost productivity and improve the customer journey?  This will help prepare you for the rapid growth in digital touch points that are coming down the pipeline.

Related paper: The future of front and back office Workforce Blending

Back Office solutions can also provide compliance assistance, a major concern for companies operating in the financial services industry.  With the use of intelligent data, reports and dashboards organisations should have a 360 degree visibility on quality assurance and service metrics to remain compliant and adhere to the FCA’s Conduct Risk Agenda.  Transparency of data and robust audit trails will also help to meet these compliance challenges.

Finally (although not an exhaustive list!), ensure you have automation capabilities, it is not unheard of that a process that previously took many hours to complete can now take little more than a few minutes thanks to automation!

Summary

Generally, there is a willingness to accept that organisations need to go above and beyond what they are currently doing in the back office with efficient and effective work practices leading to growth in performance and an overall reduction in operating costs.  Despite the desire to expand, businesses aren’t necessarily looking to increase their headcount.  Instead they are embracing new and innovative ways to become more productive so employees can be redeployed to undertake more valuable and meaningful work. 

The key focus for forward thinking organisations is to modernise archaic back office systems with future-proof technology and simplify the complex patchwork of systems accrued over the years.  The return on investment within back office optimisation and automation is rapid these days and as a result organisations are starting to act.  With innovative solutions constantly developing, embracing technology in the back office is a necessity for those businesses wanting to thrive and become centres of excellence.

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