Whether it be politics, athletics, or business, what happens in the backlines is just as important as the front. An organization’s back office services work, which includes non-customer facing transaction processing, is fundamental to any great customer experience. That’s why it’s essential to keep back-office operations running effectively. What happens behind the scenes will influence the success of customer-facing interactions.
In our experience, we’ve seen many disorganized back-office practices lead to financial losses and excessive rework, resulting in increased average handle time and other errors that directly impact efficiency and customer experience.
Therefore, organizations need to realize the value in creating a healthy and productive back-office environment. Here are four best practices around training, operations, quality assurance, and automation to create exceptional services:
1. Start with actionable and engaging training
Every great operation begins with providing interactive and responsive training. Outlining detailed workflows for each task and mapping them against areas of opportunity and error can help associates focus on the quality of their work. Use detailed work mapping to scope improvement opportunities while educating associates about different approaches they could take. These training opportunities help them understand what to be aware of during each job.
For complex back-office tasks consisting of multiple steps, we encourage “Mind Maps” -- a diagram used to visually organize information. They can help associates remember steps and identify easier and more accurate decision making. Once the scope of the issue is defined, processes that don’t involve human intervention can be identified and automated to help reduce manual efforts.
It is also important to acknowledge that at times, associates may not have comprehensive training documents ready with them, creating fractured customer support service and likely leading to customers being tossed around. That’s why real-time updates to a database or knowledge library should be made to keep the information fresh, avoid ambiguity, and streamline information for the associate to access when assisting customers.
As a way to tie it all in, we’ve seen that gamified training tools such as self-help dashboards can find commonly made errors for associates as a quick reference point. Gamified training is one of the latest training methodologies adopted by organizations that involves applying video game-like designs to help career growth become interactive and entertaining.
2. Safety is the name of the game
In a world full of fraud, leaks, and malicious hackers, the need for security and secure procedures are key. There are two approaches to prevent harmful instances for your customers and organizations that we like to practice: Maker & Checker and double key data entry
Maker & Checker: This review and audit mechanism approach emphasizes dual verification of transactions that are prone to financial losses, wherein a maker would input the details related to a transaction and a checker would validate if the entry made by maker is correct or not. Having an audit mechanism in place at the initial stage helps avoid huge financial losses resulting from incorrect inputs for a high value transaction.
Double key data entry approach: Similar to the Maker & Checker approach, a double key data entry approach helps detect potential errors in the early phase of the process lifecycle thus avoiding any lag in detecting an error. Two associates simultaneously enter the same input values at the same time for a transaction. If the entries match, it would go through and if there is a conflict, the system would raise a red flag.
For example, for one of our travel-hospitality clients, all new customers were required to go through a verification process before they could book their first reservation. All the profile information was double-checked – and if two associates reached different decisions, say one declined and another verified, a third more experienced associate made the final decision.
3. Make quality a priority
The back-office needs to stress thoroughness and efficiency. In industries such as banking, just one mistake can lead to huge financial loss for the institution. A method to prevent this involves performing a “100% Quality Audit” of all the critical and financially sensitive transactions.
In our experience we’ve done a 100% Quality Audit for all the transactions that are processed. For example, a quality audit for enrolling an individual in a 401(k) plan would include auditing personal information, fund allocation, vesting percent, etc. The quality audit can help ensure all such steps are followed with 100 percent accuracy. This may involve additional costs and resources, but it is worth the investment to avoid financial implications such as loss on transactions or penalties due to compliance.
Transactions with financial- and compliance-related implications need to have a stringent quality check mechanism to ensure zero tolerance for errors. We call this a Zero Tolerance QA. For quality assurance grading, any errors would result in a failed transaction score, so it becomes a 0 or 100 scoring mechanism. This is integral to transactions with huge financial implications.
4. Automate intelligently in the back office
Artificial intelligence is reinventing the workplace by freeing up associates to work on complex and meaningful tasks while automation caters to the easier work. But quickly implemented automation can lead to poor and frustrating customer experiences. It’s important to create algorithms for mistake proofing to help avoid errors.
For example, in processes such as ‘Maker & Checker’, the Maker first step can often be automated. The human Checker can then decide to complete the transaction. This can help reduce manual efforts by up to 50 percent.
Recent trends suggest that many companies have created self-help process flows on their websites or apps to enable customers to solve their concerns independently by using credential authentication and one-time password (OTP) option. The OTP option is received by the user on a registered email address or cell phone to authenticate the transaction initiated by customer for any request such as contact information change, authorizing financial charge on the card, or online payment.
With such a feature available, customers can make basic changes on their own and free up associates’ time. However, it is important to note that this will require seamless integration of various front-end and back-end systems.
Set your sights on change
In your organization, customers may not be directly interacting with back-office associates, but their work is integral to meaningful interactions such as changes, approvals, and financial verification behind the scenes. Their contributions help create a seamless flow that makes a user’s experience with a brand that much easier.