Back Office Productivity is Vital to Good Customer Engagement


engagementcycleIn his recent blog, Mike Bourke, SVP & GM Workforce Optimization at Aspect, explained how the level of customer engagement is very directly linked to the level of agent engagement in an “Engagement Cycle” whether it be a positive or negative exchange.   We all know that in a conversation between people, enthusiasm can be infectious, but so can discontent.  The blog points out that more progressive contact centers take concerted steps to ensure that agents feel empowered and engaged in their jobs, so they naturally radiate a positive impression to customers from the start, thereby setting in motion a more harmonious cycle of customer engagement.

For many enterprises, especially those in service-based industries like banking, mortgage origination and insurance, the back office is the very heart of the business where most of the value is actually created for customers.  The customer may conduct transactions with only the front office, but there’s important work getting done in the back office.  So how does the back office affect that all-important customer engagement?

Engagement Across the Enterprise

Just as there is a symbiotic cycle of interactions between customer and agent, there is a cycle of interactions between the back office and agent.  After all, the back office must deliver on the promises made by the front office.  However, there is usually no direct contact between back office employees and the customer, so the human interaction benefits of engagement and empowerment do not directly affect the customer’s ultimate experience.  The primary contribution being made by the back office is the quality and speed of service being provided to the customer, delivered by the face of the front office.

For the back office, productivity is usually more important than engagement in achieving the best experience for the customer.  We could think of this as a kind of gradient in importance of engagement and productivity as shown in the picture.  The further removed an employee is from the customer, the higher the importance of sheer productivity and the lower the importance of engagement.  The two are related of course.  It’s hard to have really high productivity without some level of employee engagement, but as far as managing performance and customer satisfaction, you have quite different objectives.

This creates a dichotomy for workforce optimization tools.  You want to use them in the front office to deliver great employee engagement, and you want to use them in the back office to deliver great employee productivity.  How can you do both?  Here are some thoughts:

  • Use a flexible performance management tool in front and back offices to collect, analyze and correlate employee performance data and establish distinct metrics and KPIs that reinforce the behavior you want in each part of your business
  • Use a proven back office work routing solution such as Aspect EQ Back Office. The productivity gains to be had by dynamically monitoring work progress and reallocating work to people in real-time can yield operating cost reductions between 20-40%
  • Use quality management in the front office that incorporates customer measured quality as an important factor in assessing overall agent performance
  • Use your workforce management system to give your front office workers somewhat more flexible schedule preferences and looser adherence than required in the back office

Of course, you would like to see improved morale and reduced turnover in both the back and front offices, and you can effect these sorts of sweeping improvements by providing employees in all parts of the organization with WFO software tools  — ones sporting modern icon and widget-based user interfaces such as those we all enjoy on our smartphones.  See what a great user experience looks like with Aspect’s WFO UI.

WFO in the Back Office

Workforce Optimization tools have historically been the domain of the front office contact center, but enterprises are increasingly using WFO as an essential tool to manage back office employees as well.  Some analysts put the growth rate of WFO in the back office above 20%, while WFO growth in the front office is closer to 6%.  It’s not surprising that workforce management, performance management, quality management, analytics and other WFO solutions would benefit the productivity of large back office labor pools.  What is surprising is that enterprises have only recently started to implement WFO in the back office on a large scale.

As WFO becomes more pervasive in back office operations, enterprises will not only see higher productivity, they will be able to share employee resources between front and back offices to more easily adapt to unpredictable volume spikes and lulls.  You are essentially diversifying your portfolio of labor resources while maintaining or reducing cost.  There will likely be some temporary disruption to the organization, since changes in reporting structure may be necessary to facilitate this sharing, but the economics are compelling.  Expect to see enterprises thinking more strategically about both the back and front offices when purchasing or replacing their WFO solutions.

Robert Moore