Front Office vs. Back Office
The terms "front office" and "back office" are used to describe two general facets of all customer- or client-related business operations. Front office activities include those that directly connect to customers or clients, such as marketing, sales, service and support. Back office activities include all other business functions and activities that aren't customer-facing.
Front office refers to your efforts to attract, sell to and retain customers. Any business that relies on customers and clients can't survive and thrive without effective front office operations. Your stores, and your sales, service and support workers essentially represent the face of your company to the market. In a bank, a customer spends much more time with a teller than she would with the people who design financial products or who make underwriting decisions on loans.
Marketing and sales are promotional activities in the front office realm. Marketing includes customer research to get to know the needs of customers. Promotional messages delivered through advertising and public relations are also part of your front office. Many manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers also employ sales staff that interact directly with customers to promote goods and services. Support and service activities help in retaining customers. Technical support is commonly provided for high-tech products and services. Customer service activities help in following up with customers and resolving problems.
Back office doesn't necessarily take a back seat in business importance. An online business couldn't function without support from the information technology department. Back office activities support the work of front-end employees, and are used to plan for, monitor and improve ongoing business operations. What customers see on the front end often results from data gathering, strategic meetings and operational decisions on the back end.
Many companies have a number of departments engaged in back office activities. Human resources, accounting and finance, and information systems and technology are common back office functions. Human resources supports front end activities by ensuring that the company has the best sales, service and support staff in place. Technology infrastructure plays a key role in many business activities, including website operation, inventory control, point-of-sale checking, and data gathering. Accounting and finance involve financial record-keeping and planning.