The dividing line between a front office and a back office is the location where the work is done in the office. The terms can reference the literal location of where a certain type of work is done, or be symbolic of the type of work being conducted. Front office operations tend to deal with the direct contact the business has with the customers or clients of the business, while back office operations tend to deal with the work that is behind-the-scenes or the fulfillment of the products or services the customers are buying. Operations, or the business that is conducted, is also different between a front office and back office.
In general, front office operations tend to take place in the lobby of an office or where customers congregate before coming into the depth of an office of building. Workers in the front office and back office also tend to differ. Front office workers tend to be administrative and clerical workers, such as a receptionist. Back end office workers tend to deal with the more in-depth tasks of running the business.
Some of the areas that fall into the front office include sales and marketing and service. Back office workers tend to deal with tasks that are more directly related to running the business. For example, a front office worker may take a sales order from a customer, but it is the responsibility of the back office worker to fulfill the order. Manufacturing, order fulfillment and even accounting are all part of the back office of a business.
Even though there are differences between front office and back office operations, the two parts have to work together in order to make the business work as a whole. Some overlap between the two areas of the office may also be required. This is also known as cross training. This means that the front office employees should have a working knowledge of the tasks and duties of the back office employees. This holds true for the back office workers as well.
The reason for having some overlap is so the business can provide superior and uninterrupted customer service. If a front office worker is out for lunch or out sick, a back office worker should know enough about their position to fill in on a short-term basis. If a customer comes in to pick up their order or to complete paperwork that is typically handled by the back office, the front office worker should be knowledgeable enough to provide this information to the customer without any interruption in service and to create a seamless process for the client or customer.