To date, most companies have primarily deployed workforce management process and software solutions in the front-office, such as in a contact centre environment. In fact, it could be said that the back-office is one of the least invested business functions supporting an organisations customer service effort. This is despite the back office being a major contributor to customer experience, which in my experience can account for up to 70% percent of customer experience. It’s not enought to have a great front office customer experience if customers are then let down when a complicated case has to defered for back-office processing where the quality is poor and it to takes forever to complete.
Many businesses have tried to eliminate the need for back-office workers and there has certainly been much progress made in automating transactional back-office tasks. However, despite this there are still many back-office processes that require human judgment, and this will remain the case for many years to come. With this in mind it is fair to say that it is long over-due for organisations to invest in their back-office workforce management processes/solutions and reap the many generic WFM benefits that can be applied to any organisation type including;
Productivity – WFM can address any lagging productivity by ensuring any parts of the workforce that are under-utilised are reassigned to different productive work.
Employee Turnover & Reduced Recruitment Need – attrition can often be attributable to having an overworked or underworked workforce. WFM addresses this by planning capacity periodically and addressing excess capacity or shortages through having a better grasp of capacity and reallocating employees on a needs basis rather than hiring externally as a response to short-term increases in volumes. Temporarily reallocating staff also allows staff to stay motivated by keeping them busy in low volume times.
Backlog reduction & Overtime Reduction – Organisations will see their backlogs decrease by implementing better short-term planning and long-term forecasting. Not only should they have the proper resources to perform incoming work volumes, they will also be able to proactively address fluctuations that cause backlog situations. Planning ahead of time, and by being proactive about higher work volumes rather than reactive, will also have the added benefit of reducing reliance on overtime to complete work.
The main reason why front office WFM practice is so much more developed vs back-office, lies mainly with difficulties in capturing workforce flow and workforce data. This is as a result of the back-office often not having the system infrastructure to capture the many different types of work performed in a back-office department nor the automation for tracking the volume of incoming/outgoing/backlogged/deferred work, especially when this work is manual and sometimes, paper-based or completed using a variety of IT applications
Thus, to truly achieve great workforce management practice in the back-office it is key to find a technology solution that provides either/both desktop analytics which will track everything employees do on their desktop systems and/or a work allocation/management system which will function as a journal where employees manually log their work in and out. Without this technology enablement the lack of workflow data, such as Process Cycle Time, will significantly reduce forecasting accuracy and you will be unable to optimise the allocation of both planned work and work in real-time.
Either solution type is good but desktop analytics will take you to the next level. Direct integration with desktop applications will provide real-time and historic visibility of workflow through the automatic capture, tracking and analysis of application usage, thus facilitating reporting of multi-level information such as workforce availability/productivity and agent activity/process steps being taken. Activity information not captured via an integration within an application can still be captured through additional user prompts and simple on-line forms.
Any workforce management process lives and dies by data availability – trash in trash out as the old adage goes. Of course what you do with this data is also critical, but the good news is WFM process does not need to be so drastically different from front-office WFM process in order to still be beneficial.
In my next article I am going to discuss how to get started in Back-Office WFM, provide some best practices, as well as the benefits of a Blended Workforce which in my opinion can only be achieved via robust WFM process applied.