The search for exceptional customer engagement: breaking down barriers between the front, middle and back offices
As the battle for competitive advantage becomes fiercer, maintaining positive customer engagement is crucial to any organisation worth its salt.
For many business and IT leaders, improving the customer experience is about working out how operations at the front end of the business can be enhanced: this could include more targeted marketing efforts, a revamp of the company’s external image, or a drive to increase the level of personalisation that customer service agents offer to customers.
Within this mix, optimising the activities of both the middle and back offices may be given less attention, with staff at the front end of the organisation being seen as the principal players in the drive for an improved customer experience. However, what businesses need to realise is that all parts of the organisation, from front office right through to the back, have the power to contribute to this goal and should be heavily involved in its pursuit.
In order for this to happen, the barriers between the front, middle, and back offices need to be broken down, and the tendency for these parts of the business to work in silos needs to be eliminated. This is in line with HFS Research’s Digital OneOffice concept, and would enable a customer-centric philosophy to permeate the entire organisation. With the right technologies in place, this is very much an achievable aim.
Making this happen requires businesses to focus on three key technologies that have the transformation of services in mind: automation, AI, and smart analytics. Some of these technologies can be brought into effect in the here and now, while others should be closely monitored as they become more mature.
To start breaking down these barriers, there are a number of things that companies can do in the here and now. Key here is a focus on adopting a software-based approach that has greater efficiency and collaboration between employees in mind. Making the move to cloud is a positive way to start, as it makes resources and software easily accessible to anyone at the business, helping to facilitate the sharing of data and collaboration between different teams.
Other readily available technologies can also be leveraged to help turn the front, middle and back offices into a single, integrated unit. Robotic process automation (RPA) can be instrumental here, in that it can intelligently automate time-consuming tasks on an ongoing basis, supporting human input by giving staff more time to focus on other activities. Combined with a design thinking philosophy which emphasises innovative solutions to challenges, businesses can endow their employees with the tools and ethos needed to engender greater collaboration.
AI continues to dominate tech headlines and the thoughts of many a professional working in IT. While the technology hasn’t quite reached its full potential yet, it promises to offer a huge amount to businesses looking to boost their customer experience and is already starting to make a difference in this area. Organisations should be keeping a close eye on AI’s development and should incorporate it into their workforce management processes on an ongoing basis, which will go a long way towards reducing inefficiencies and giving the entire business more time to focus on innovation.
Smart analytics are also beginning to play a defining role in eliminating the traditional silos of the front, middle, and back office. By incorporating intuitive analytics tools across all parts of the business, it becomes much easier for leaders to see how their department is performing against the needs of the wider business, and what needs to be done to better align activities with the goals of the company as a whole.
Investigate for the future
Maintaining competitive advantage is about staying ahead of the game. With that in mind, business leaders should always be keeping their eyes on the technology that could further increase efficiency and enable more effective collaboration throughout the organisation.
Distributed ledger technology - of which blockchain is a leading example - is an area with vast amounts of potential. By bringing greater efficiency and speed to processes, allied with greater transparency and enhanced security, organisations will be able to conduct their activities in a way that ensures a unified approach across the business.
One office to rule them all
Traditionally, dividing a customer-focused business into a front, middle, and back office made sense, making it easier for leaders and employees to follow clearly defined roles and ensure each person had specific responsibilities to fulfil. With the technology we have at our disposal today and will have in the near future, separating the three is now an old-world approach.
If businesses want to truly make a difference to the customer experience, it is about going beyond the idea that one particular office is the beating heart of the business or the engine room of the company, and moving towards a situation where the front, middle and back offices play an equal role in the central nervous system of the organisation.