When people talk about the front office, they are referring to all of the functions within an organization that include direct contact with customers. For example, the front office in a hotel describes the concierge and desk workers who make reservations and accept payments. The front office might be more easily understood when compared to back office tasks, which include accounting, human resources, and other functions that may contribute to the quality of customer service, but which customers rarely see. Some of the most common front office procedures are communication, documentation, and financial or sales transactions.
Communication is one of the most essential front office procedures found in nearly every front office scenario. When receptionists in medical offices speak to patients on the telephone or greet patients as they come into an office, for example, they are performing communication tasks. In retail, communication tasks occur when sales representatives help customers to find the items for which they are shopping.
Documentation is another of the most important procedures in the front office. In short, this is the process of recording what happens in a front office. Front desk workers in a hotel, for example, are responsible for keeping track of who makes reservations, who checks in, and who checks out. They usually store this information in databases so they can know how many rooms are open and when they can plan on staffing for the most clients.
Front office procedures that include sales and financial transactions are usually documented and conveyed digitally to back office departments, such as finance and accounting. In retail, many front office workers use cash registers that calculate daily totals. Professionals who work in medical offices might have to take insurance information. In some cases they might also have to be familiar with medical coding.
As in most aspects of business, management is an important process. Managers normally oversee all office procedures and ensure that workers are performing their tasks correctly. They might also train front office workers and change front office procedures to meet new challenges.
Many managers believe that front office procedures should be continually developed. Instead of depending on models or strategies because they are familiar, many managers instead choose to analyze each new challenge and adopt solutions. For instance, if a hotel manager finds that a reservation system is too slow and that desk workers cannot assist clients quickly enough, he or she might look for new systems that are cost effective. A manager might also observe front desk employee behavior and conduct periodic training sessions to improve communications with clients.