The back office is not a call center.
While this may sound obvious on the surface, companies looking to apply contact center productivity tools to their back office challenges find that the key to their project’s success actually lies in applying principles, as well as tools, to the task at hand. In the back office, workload and arrival patterns aren’t as well defined as they are in the contact center. Metrics may have to be developed and are likely to evolve over time. You may find your back office associates don’t respond to being measured as contact center agents do.
The key to a successful back office productivity project is to focus on how you can change the culture of your environment. Employees in many back office environments are less likely to view their jobs as operational than would those in a call center. This may cause your back office associates to resist the change your productivity projects represent.
The culture of your back office has a direct impact on the customer experience, which is why improving back office efficiency remains an important endeavor. There are a number of factors you should consider when you embark on your back office operational improvement project:
1. Make sure you have executive sponsorship and alignment at the onset of your project. It is important that the technology is seen not as an intrusion but as a critical asset to support the objectives of the organization.
2. Build a strong workforce management team at the beginning. This is critical to forging a strong relationship with the operation and keeping the stakeholders engaged. Many qualified workforce management professionals can be found within your own organization. The most effective people will be self-starters who are comfortable working in ambiguity.
3. Keep an open mind. Once you begin your initiatives and start to gain insight into your metrics, you will need to resist the impulse to take the data at face value. Make sure you dig into the numbers to uncover the root causes of your productivity challenges. Stay curious about what the numbers truly mean as you develop your scorecards. Look for new ways to use the data to improve the business.
4. Practice effective project management fundamentals. Keep your stakeholders engaged in the process. If you just roll the project out from a technical perspective, you will lose your internal support. Focus on the business uses of the technology, and how it will benefit your associates. Communicate benefits and the ways in which the technology will help employees meet their work objectives.
5. Conduct regular health checks. Monitor project status at 30, 60 and 90-day intervals to ensure the project is being executed as planned, and to perform course corrections as appropriate.
Managing back office operational efficiency entails more than simply deploying contact center technologies in the back office. The culture differences between the two organizations can be significant. But with the correct approach, you can gain enterprise-wide efficiencies with the right solutions and methodologies.
Charles Watson is Vice President of Planning and Operational Performance for United Health Group’s OptumRX Division. Charles will be sharing UHG’s experiences optimizing back office processes with NICE technology at Interactions 2013, the annual meeting of the NICE User Group.