How Do I Set up a Front Office?

Terry Masters

You can set up a front office for your business by securing facilities, hiring staff, and preparing systems to interface with the public. Alternatively, you can hire a company that offers a pre-established office solution or outsource part of the staffing component to companies around the world. Office design and management is a key to every company's success. The deployment of a public interface reflects its customer service philosophy and will, ultimately, determine customer loyalty. Management's challenge is to reduce costs while keeping customers happy and building a competitive advantage.

To set up the front office, you need to secure the facilities, hire staff and prepare the systems needed to interface with the public.
To set up the front office, you need to secure the facilities, hire staff and prepare the systems needed to interface with the public.

A company's front office consists of all the departments that come into direct contact with the public. These departments include reception, service, and sales. Typically, a new company will have modest needs, and may only need a place to meet with clients or customers and equips it appropriately. Then it hires staff to answer phones, provide customer service and make sales. Finally, it establishes systems to make the process run smoothly.

In the initial stages of business development, the front office might share much of the same space and resources as the back office by necessity. The back office is all of the parts of the business that the public never sees. Manufacturing businesses that have to set up facilities to produce a product tend to be more concerned at first with the back office, while consultancies and service-oriented businesses rise and fall on their public relations. As a company grows and it has the resources to establish separate facilities for each department, setting up office operations is a matter of equipping every department that comes into contract with the public with a customer service philosophy and the staff and equipment to provide a consistent company face.

An alternative to setting up your own office, particularly in the start-up phase, is to hire a consultant firm to handle it. There are businesses that provide packaged front office services for other companies. This type of business service provider will operate a central office with reception, meeting rooms, offices, equipment, hospitality, and anything else a business would need to meet with a client. For a flat fee, it assigns a client-company a phone number and a mailing address. It handles telephone and in-person reception, processes mail for the company, and allows company staff to use the facilities to meet with clients as needed.

Mature businesses have another option for setting up front office operations. Outsourcing parts to overseas countries with lower labor costs, such as India, has become a popular way to contain expenses. Customer service over the telephone is one department that is often outsourced. Many businesses have outsourced parts of their sales departments, particularly cold calling and initial contacts. In these instances, a company still maintains a front office presence but key services are contracted out to third parties.

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