Customer service is often thought of as a front-end, customer-facing responsibility, but more and more, companies are turning to the back office to solve customer disputes and resolve issues.
It can be a challenge, however, to not only establish processes to involve back-office personnel in customer service but also to measure the performance of people oftentimes unaccustomed to a customer service role. Yet Lake Forest, Ill.-based W.W. Grainger, a business-to-business retailer, has found an effective way to both monitor back-office processes and improve customer service.
Customer satisfaction surveys done internally at Grainger revealed that not all customer problems could be resolved at the call center level, said Kim Hayungs, workforce management (WFM) manager. If a customer receives an incorrect shipment, a call center agent can make restitution and send out a correct package, but the back office may not be notified that there could be something wrong with its shipping processes.
Some at Grainger wondered if they could transfer the front-end processes at the counter and software to the back office, said Hayungs.
“Someone had said, ‘If only we had for the [back-office] phones what we have at the counter,’” said Hayungs.
Grainger turned to Verint Systems Inc., a Melville, N.Y.-based workforce optimization (WFO) software company. Verint had already handled Grainger’s front-end WFM processes with Impact 360.
“We wanted to figure how what to measure, and how to start,” said Hayungs.
But moving the WFO software to the back office isn’t as easy as it is in the call center, said Christopher Zaske, a vice president at Verint, There are more processes to track -- not just phone calls, but also emails, inventory tracking, receipts and more.
“It’s a different environment you have to set up, to capture that data,” Zaske said.
To really effectively monitor customer satisfaction, you can’t just pay attention to the customer-facing positions; it requires looking at the entire organization and finding where processes could be improved or streamlined, said Zaske.
Challenges arise when those in your organization are doubtful that WFO software can work in the non-customer-facing departments.
“The whole organization has got to sign up,” said Zaske.
Grainger’s move to monitoring back-office transactions has taken a few years, and so far, only the company's service center operations group is on board, said Hayungs. However, there are plans to eventually expand to the entire company.
Zaske said Grainger’s slow expansion of Impact 360 into the back office is typical. It’s a slow process, he said, but many companies that use WFO software in the back office do see results.