Off Center
By guest blogger, Matt McConnell

Does your contact center have a front office and back office? If yes, then it’s time to do some renovation. Are your front and back offices actually located in the front and back of the building? Maybe they’re on different floors, different sections of the building or even different buildings in different regions. Or, possibly they are in the same space but divided by an invisible wall. Whatever the case, it is time to pull out your metaphorical sledge hammer and tear those walls to the ground. Better yet, pull out hundreds of metaphorical sledge hammers and give them to every agent, supervisor, manager, executive and customer, because this renovation is for each and every one of them.

As matter of fact, let’s not call it a renovation but a revolution. A revolution to free back office management from being forced to scramble to staff up when changing regulations call for more

paper-pushing. A movement to free agents from monotony. Most importantly, an undertaking to remove hassles and hurdles that hinder customer service.

The future demands one office made up of blended agents. One office reduces cost, increases morale and improves the customer experience. Let’s take a closer look at each of these three big benefits:

Cost savings. Many companies face unforeseen changes in business conditions that cause workload increases. For example, an insurance intermediary recently faced a workload increase caused by changing regulations that required customers to submit proof that they had no claims in order to receive discounted policies.  Before regulations changed, insurers conducted more of a spot check – maybe 20 percent of policies. To protect against fraud, regulations changed and drastically increased the workload of the back office. Such an additional workload meant significant costs for adding headcount and labor hours to process these claims.

For one insurance contact center, this was the driving force for blending the front and back office activity. The company employed roughly 800 front office agents and over 100 people in the back office, and the back office handled 30 or 40 different back office processes. Verifying customer paperwork for the no claims discount would become the biggest of those processes. The company estimated the new process would require them to hire 25 extra back office workers. By blending the front and back office, they didn't need to have additional headcount. All of that work was absorbed by front office contact center agents resulting in big savings for the company. 

Agent morale. Agents speak to a lot of people during the course of a day, and those people aren’t calling to chat about their grandchildren or offer a weekend getaway at their timeshare. There's a good chance that some of the people agents talk to are not all that happy – they may be impatient, angry and/or depressed. After all, most people who pick up the phone to call a contact center are typically calling about an issue or problem they couldn’t solve on their own. Agents need a little break from this on occasion. Routing paperwork or claims processing for agents to process in 10 to 15 minute breaks that can be completed during slower call volume provides the agents with the job diversity and variety they need and crave.

Customer experience. Having customers interact with agents who are privy to what’s happening with back office processes can certainly have a positive impact on the customer experience. Let’s take the paperwork needed to qualify for a discounted insurance policy as one example. The insurance company recently had a customer who bought two insurance policies, submitted the required paperwork, but received a notice that only one of the policies was discounted.

Here’s what happened. The customer purchased two policies on the same day with the same provider, and mailed the proof for both policies in the same envelope. After the customer received a letter asking about proof for one of the two policies, the customer called to inquire. The agent discovered that the proof for both policies had been scanned but only for one of the policies. In the pre-blended world, the agent wouldn't have understood the back office processes well enough to identify the error and would have told the customer to follow up with another person and department. The customer would have to do the legwork to send out the email and wait for a response, and there is no guarantee it would have been resolved quickly. With one office, the issues was immediately identified and a positive customer experience was preserved.

Join the Revolution

This is one office. The revolution has begun. Your contact center can embrace one office or be left to wither away in the past. Get out those figurative sledge hammers and start reducing costs, increasing morale and improving the customer experience.

About Matt McConnell: Matt is chairman, president and CEO of Intradiem. Matt co-founded Intradiem in 1995 with a vision of helping companies increase the level of customer service they deliver by improving the performance of their agents. Today, Intradiem is a leader in intraday management technology with more than 450,000 agents and managers around the world using Intradiem every day.

Leave a Reply.