By Jennifer Lee, Chief Strategy Officer at Intradiem
Consumers may not realise this, but many of the most important tasks required to provide a great customer experience (such as processing claims, solving disputes, or issuing refunds) are completed by people – specifically, by a team of associates in the back office.
Back office associates are really the unsung heroes of any service organisation. They are tasked with time-consuming and critical work which, if not completed efficiently and effectively, translates directly into lost revenue when customers take their business elsewhere. It’s an important and often misunderstood or overlooked customer service function.
The reality is that, even in an era driven by transformation, many companies’ back office associates are still working with antiquated processes and legacy systems, and service leaders lack transparency into their back office operations. The good news: the technical landscape is evolving, and savvy service leaders are realising that back office associates deserve more focus and attention.
Applying Contact Centre Success to the Back Office
Over the last decade, contact centre leaders have blazed a trail that demonstrates how to leverage technology to improve operational efficiency, leading to cost savings and better customer experiences. Having created a blueprint to drive change, this approach has paid serious dividends, even in a pandemic.
Companies adopting technologies like AI-powered intelligent assistants have dramatically reduced costs in their contact centres. As a result of this success, forward-thinking service leaders are now taking measures to apply similar solutions in the back office to realise productivity gains and cost savings.
The Back Office is Full of Untapped Potential
Back office associates have a difficult job. Their primary role is to complete tasks that make up for a process or technical gap in a service delivery model. This means they work in multiple, unintegrated systems, handle a wide variety of tasks, and often work on many tasks at once – typically in a self-directed structure. The nature of this problem-first approach has led to some common operational issues and trends within back office operations.
Back offices often only have historical and disparate data on hand and thus, lack impactful insights into their operations to gauge and benchmark productivity. This is unlike the contact centre, where each touchpoint of the customer and agent journey can be mapped and actioned in real-time. Just as contact centres have evolved to turn actionable insights into actioned ones, the back office must evolve in order to realise its potential.
Recognising the untapped potential is the first step. If back offices can untangle these disjointed legacy systems and standardise a methodology similar to the call centre for benchmarking productivity, the possibilities for cost savings and optimised customer experiences are limitless.
Leveraging the Power of an Intelligent Assistant
Without a standardised framework, back office managers are unable to gauge if associates are idle or engaged in completing a task, or to benchmark time spent on different tasks. An intelligent assistant can create this framework, collecting and standardising data and providing insights in real-time.
This arms back office managers with crucial information they have never had before. Real-time data helps back office managers define productivity thresholds and set guidelines for managing associate time. The intelligent assistant can then automate the appropriate actions that redirect associates who may spend too much time in non-work applications or sit idle for a period of time beyond the pre-set threshold. For example, at a certain threshold, you can send a notification asking an associate if they need help with a certain task and offer assistance. Supervisors can also use this information when coaching associates.
The result? Higher performing associates, better customer experiences and substantial cost savings.
We are at the gates of a revolution in the back office. Companies, now more than ever, must discover ways to reduce costs and the back office is an untapped opportunity. If managers can translate the proven approach used in the contact centre to the back office, they will see increased efficiency and substantial cost savings.