The Next Frontier in Omnichannel Contact Centre Operations: The Back Office

Autumn 2023

Contact centre leaders have largely focused efforts to deliver efficient, frictionless, high-quality customer experiences (CX) on the front line, and for good reason: front-line employees have an outsized impact on CX. In fact, research shows that when it comes to customer brand loyalty “professional agents” are the most influential service element in a contact centre’s arsenal. 

In pursuit of happy, engaged, and empowered employees, savvy contact centre leaders employ an omnichannel approach, connecting customer and employee data and systems to deliver seamless customer experiences that also optimise for employee preferences across a single platform. And in doing so they save time and money by automating and streamlining previously manual functions, such as scheduling and performance management. 

Despite the gains made through omnichannel operations, the pressure to deliver more for less is unrelenting. It’s time for contact centre leaders to consider the next frontier in omnichannel: the back office.

“professional agents” are the most influential service element in a contact centre’s arsenal.

The back office opportunity

No longer out of sight, out of mind

The back office refers to business functions that aren’t directly customer-facing—things like claims processing, trouble ticket resolution, accounting and order fulfilment. While most of this work takes place behind the scenes from the contact centre, it impacts CX nonetheless: according to the research firm Aberdeen, 17% of contact centre traffic is driven by back office-related issues.

Moreover, back office headcounts can be high, and in some cases even surpass frontline employee numbers. Either way, disconnected and siloed back office scheduling and performance management functions, for example, can significantly hinder a contact centre’s ability to do more with less. 

Despite its impact on CX and the bottom line—and in stark contrast to highly efficient omnichannel operations elsewhere in the contact centre—many back-office operations feel like the Wild West. 

Back office teams often operate within their own unique processes, metrics and accountability standards, making it nearly impossible to compare productivity across teams. Workflow is often uncharted, unstandardised and unsupervised by a centralised authority. 

In the absence of consistent standards and visibility, back office operations may encounter large backlogs, repeat tickets and duplicate contacts, costing team members valuable time when reaching out to customers. 

As contact centres continuously pursue greater efficiency and higher quality experiences, the back office is emerging as the next frontier. Yet taming its Wild West attributes and harnessing omnichannel efficiencies requires new solutions and a commitment to connecting two very different operations.  

17% of contact centre traffic is driven by back office-related issues.

Why now?

Just as modern progress brought an end to the Wild West more than 125 years ago, digital advancements are providing new tools for back-office management. In the face of long-term staffing challenges, cost pressures, and increasing customer expectations, the integration of the back office into an existing omnichannel system can deliver immediate gains. According to DMG Consulting LLC, companies that combine back office and related contact centre activities can reduce the employee costs of the combined functions by approximately 20%, while speeding up processing, increasing first contact resolution (FCR) and reducing errors. 

Every contact centre has unique circumstances and needs, but by using data and analytics to accurately staff, measure, and improve operations across the front and back offices, organisations can increase back office productivity and proficiency. To make the two sectors work together, organisations must find a way to synchronise two very different environments. 

...reduce the employee costs of the combined functions by approximately 20%, while speeding up processing, increasing first contact resolution (FCR) and reducing errors.

Essential tools of back office integration

The back office can be managed just as effectively as the front office. Doing so, however, requires conversion and connection. 

First, back office work activity must be converted into intervals of time that can be merged with immediate response front office channels, such as voice, chat, video and SMS. This conversion process creates a critical standardised view of productivity across the front and back offices. Unfortunately, it’s not always simple. 

For example, backlog, or deferrable work, does not require an immediate response and an “interaction” is often long in duration and is usually asynchronous. It is notoriously difficult to predict the amount of time—and associated staffing—required to complete highly variable back office work items. 

However, contact centres already operating within an omnichannel workforce management system may have the tools they need to begin a back office omnichannel integration. Leaders should explore their current workforce management solution to determine if it supports critical back office integration functions, including: 

  • Activity-based staffing requirements to blend front-office and back-office work streams. By deconstructing back office inventory items into interval-specific, activity-based work effort, deferrable work items can be assigned to multi-skilled hybrid front office/back-office employees to seamlessly blend back office tasks with immediate response contact in the front office. Based on the work item assignment rules and priorities, the workforce management system can automatically ensure both immediate-response synchronous work and deferred-response asynchronous work receive due attention. 

  • Robust, automated analytics to maintain a healthy backlog. Back office operation leaders need a method for “reconstructing” the work activities into a single, comprehensive picture of inventory-based staffing, workload and backlog health. Using existing backlog, forecast, and scheduling data (including the complexities of using hybrid employees), some workforce management systems can automate the forecasting of inventory backlog and work item expiration in blended operations. Complicated data conversions are automated to provide leaders with a single view to streamline and perfect backlog management.  

It's time to make the back office as efficient as the front office

The back office doesn’t have to be the Wild West of contact centre operations. Modern WFM solutions can synchronise two very different environments, so that the back office can be managed just as effectively as the front office, breaking down siloes and optimising resources, no matter where they sit. In the turf war for continuously improved experiences and incremental efficiencies, it’s time to bring the back office into modern, omnichannel contact centre operations. 

Nathan Stearns

Vice President, Product Management