Our panel of experts highlight the key mistakes to avoid when integrating the back office into your contact centre.
Mistake 1 – Trying to apply the same “standards of performance” to all employees
Front-office employees are usually hired for their personalities, customer service and sales skills, ability to talk and type, and ability to work and adhere to flexible, non-traditional schedules. For example, shift work rather than the more traditional 9-5.
Back-office employees, on the other hand, are usually hired for their technical expertise, with their interpersonal skills not being particularly relevant.
Generally, front-office employees can make the transition to back-office work much easier than back-office employees can to the front office.
Trying to apply the same “standards of performance” to employees hired primarily to do back-office work when assessing their front-office efforts is unfair and demoralising. This is true the other way around as well.
For integration success, you will need to blend the KPIs but also apply the right goals relative to their role and tenure in the position. It can also help to have a common library of coaching tips, tricks and techniques to guide employees doing newer work types to make the transition more easily.
Mistake 2 – Applying the same scheduling technique to everyone
Scheduling the right number of people in the front office as well as in the back office is all about aligning the anticipated workload with the number of agents required to complete it. But this is very much where the resemblance ends.
Front offices have queues (calls waiting to be answered) and concerns about customer waiting times, while in the back office, queues are replaced by backlogs and service level agreements (SLAs).
Back-office forecasting and scheduling needs to take into consideration not only the expected work today, but also the backlog of the previous period and the backlog created from the current one.
The method (and as a result, the algorithms) required for forecasting and scheduling in the front office are different – very different from the ones used in the back office.
Mistake 3 – A one-fits-all approach to managing the new integrated team
You also need to think about the individuals who will be managing the new integrated team.
Keep in mind that front-office supervisors often have a different background from back office ones. Once they start managing across discipline, the coaching approaches they used for their “dominant” skill (front office or back office) may need to be modified to work in the blended office.
With thanks to David Geffen at NICE Systems
Mistake 4 – Exposing customers to clunky back-office systems
It’s all very well encouraging your customers to self-serve and actively use their smartphones and tablets to seek out information.
But it’s important to ensure those systems are intuitive and easy to use. You don’t want to expose customers to unwieldy poorly integrated back-office systems.
Otherwise, the likelihood is they will end up annoyed, frustrated and having to phone you to gather the information they need.
Mistake 5 – Losing track of customer interactions
Integrating the back office with the contact centre is important. But you also need to ensure you have ‘presence’ enabled across the whole organisation, and that you can track calls and other modes of interaction – from front office to back office.
Tools like Skype for Business can help ensure you understand the whole customer journey.
Mistake 6 – Structuring the project around vertical silos
Most businesses are structured around vertical silos, from finance to sales and from marketing to operations. Communications between these groups is often poor.
Customer service, in contrast, tends to run horizontally across an organisation.
Therefore, when integrating the back office into the contact centre, you should combine your resources into a more horizontal process.
Mistake 7 – Thinking about integration just as an IT project
When it comes to planning software and systems integration, many businesses concentrate their attention almost exclusively on the technical aspect of the IT implementation.
Instead, the starting point should always be optimising the customer experience. When rolling out an integration project, you should ensure that each customer has to invest the minimum possible time and effort to get what they need.
With thanks to Jeremy Payne at Enghouse Interactive
Mistake 8 – Creating your idea of the customer journey
Try to avoid creating your idea of the customer journey.
Audit current processes between your contact centre and back office to provide you with a map of the elements needed to deliver great customer experience.
Mistake 9 – Not getting buy-in from the executives
In order for your integration to be successful, you need the support of executives from both the back office team and the contact centre.
It is often a good idea to bring the 2 teams together and get the executives and managers to show that they are fully bought into the proposals.
Mistake 10 – Not having the right tools for the job
Integrating back-office information into the contact centre can be a complex job.
Make sure the tools you are using can easily pull information from disparate systems and display it in a way that makes it easier for the call centre staff to do their jobs.
Also make sure that it is flexible enough to make changes in the future that will not require expensive technical consultants.
Mistake 11 – Assuming all employees will buy in immediately to the change
You often find some staff are resistant to change. They are unsure how these changes will affect their jobs and their future.
It’s often better taking “baby steps”. Find some quick wins and share them with the team. Make them realise that the changes are a good thing and will help their jobs be more satisfying.
With thanks to David Bennie at Netcall
Mistake 12 – Trying to run before you can walk
Fight the instinct to satisfy every stakeholder and long-range goal. Instead, focus your initial project plan on 2 or 3 simple and achievable benchmark objectives.
In the first 90 days, you should concentrate on your phase 1 objectives and producing a viable action plan to create measurable results.
You could also consider using pilot groups and doing A/B comparisons to help streamline your processes.
Using this initial approach will help ensure quick wins for your organisation and will provide the foundational experience on which you and your team can expand.
With thanks to Brian LaRoche at CallMiner