June 9, 2020

Front Office: Types, Roles & Challenges

Anshika Awasthi

Imagine entering your workplace with no receptionist, attending a scrum meeting with only co-workers and no team managers or leads, planning vision and mission of business all by yourself?

What would such scenario result into? An absolute failed business.

Team heads, managers, receptionist are equally important as accounting and financing department for a business to work. Such workforce can be classified as front office. Let’s find out what front office actually is:

What is Front office?

Front office is the portion of business in a company that deals with the clients/customers. Front office is typically called so as the staff is situated at the front of the company, for easy access to customers.

Depending on the size and function of the workplace, the front office is often the best place to obtain customer-related information. Their task involves:

  • Secretarial & administrative work
  • Customer assistance
  • Company communication
  • Creation and distribution of information to clients
  • Other organisational tasks

In addition to being the point of contact for clients, front office is responsible for building relations and communications for the entire workplace. Front office managers have excellent managerial and communication skills as well as a clear understanding of the business and its functions.

Importance of front office?

The face of the Company  

Using the theatre analogy, frontstage is the audience view. Backstage workers contribute to the frontstage performance. The frontage is intended to appeal to the external customers whereas the backstage focus on the internal customer.

Similarly, in a workplace, front office is the face of the company, exposed to the audience supported by the back-office staff.

Customer Relation

Customer relations is the process of building and maintaining a relationship with the customers in a manner to grow business. Businesses rise and fall through the support of their customer base. Positive customer relations are not built in a knack of time but require time, efforts and follow-ups.

Similarly, an efficient front office is responsible for creating a strong customer base for a profitable business.

Business Reputation

Effectively creating and managing reputational risk begins with recognising that reputation is a matter of perception. A company’s overall reputation depends on its various regulators, customers, corporate governance, intellectual capital etc.

The front office builds the gap between the reputation of the company and its underlying reality. For example, when Nestlé’s Maggi noodle was accused of a poor product, it was the front end staff which dealt with media and its customers and the handled overall crisis reputation efficiently. If it were a poor front end staff, Maggi would’ve lost its reputation in the market.

There are numerous other examples of acceptable practices of a front office that lead to growing and handling business reputation.

Types of Front Office

General office

The front end staff in general offices is responsible for guiding customers with their query, and other administrative tasks. Usually, depending on the size of the company, the front office can have opportunities for networking with back-office staff and customers in a way that is beneficial and productive.

General responsibilities of this type of front office include:

  • Customer service representative
  • Dispatcher
  • Interviewer
  • Secretary
  • Production and personal assistant etc.

Hotel

Front office of the hotel is the first place where customer’s visits. This staff helps customers with problems, complaints their overall experience guide in the hotel.

The front office in the hotel industry is called the reception area. Employees working in the lobby also comes under front office category.

Responsibilities of such type of front office include:

  • Reception
  • Providing services when asked
  • Mailing information
  • Concierge
  • Managing cash

Bank

The front office in investment banking deals with sales and trading. There are two main areas within front office:

  1. Investment banking
  2. Markets

Their responsibilities include:

  • Investment banking involves advisory on mergers and acquisition and capital raising strategies.
  • While marketing involves sales & trading and research.

Sports

Front office in sports business means handling every activity of players for them. Such front office staff is in direct contact with the players as well as the team. The front office staff is usually the one that holds the highest position in the whole sports team, holding control and in charge of the whole team.

Responsibilities of this type of front office include:

  • Team management (owner, general manager, other executive positions)
  • Interacting with the public in general
  • Representing the team in media
  • Getting sponsors for the team
  • Team branding

Duties of a front office

Hotel front office duties

  • Monitoring reservation status
  • Preparing occupancy forecast
  • Determining rate structure and implementing rate policies
  • Making staffing adjustments
  • Evaluating the job performance of other hotel staff employees.

Bank front office duties

  • Pricing
  • Risk monitoring
  • Position keeping
  • Trading
  • Validation
  • Settling and accounting

Sports front office duties

  • Fixing and informing dates and schedule of games
  • Managing audience booking
  • Sports and recreation facilities
  • Providing equipment
  • Managing media relations

Challenges faced by front offices

Operating challenges

Regulation and compliance

Depending on the sector, front office attempting to understand the complex wording of rules and regulations could be a bit uphill. Unfortunately, many businesses are unaware of or don’t understand them. This results in fines and penalties.

Finding the right staff

Employees are the building cell of every business. With unskilled front office staff, there comes reputational risks, crisis, lagging with competitors etc. In short, the overall structure fails to withstand the competition.

Marketing challenges

Retaining customers

A good customer base is the one who gravitates towards your service. The increasing market has increased competition. Options for customers have increased. Coming out with retention strategies has now become equally important as any other promotional strategies.

Uncertainty

A business can never be certain about market trends. It’s as uncertain as predicting a COVID 19 free world. The fluctuation in market trends can cause a business to stifle. This is one of the most common challenges of front office.

Technological challenges

Cyber risk

Cybersecurity is increasingly a risk for all business. It’s not similar to any other IT issues. If a business is not covered under proper cybersecurity, it is exposing itself to several threats which can lead to data theft, hacks or attacks. This is one of the biggest challenges which has evolved in the last decade.

IT issues

A technologically challenged front office staff is of no use in today’s time. Especially in times of emerging automation, lacking in basic IT skills is a threat in expanding career potentials.

Bottom Line

Today, front office is losing its existence with upcoming automation and digitalisation. Its already towards its downfall. For example, Amazon has already automated several roles in its front office department. Do you also think front office will be replaced in upcoming virtual workplaces in the times of remote working?

About the author

Competitive, real; loves to keep working for what it wants. An extrovert who lives by her own ideas and methods.


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