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To become truly customer-centric, transform your back office

Tom Brennan Profile picture for user tom.brennan February 5, 2014
Most companies confine customer experience to the front office. Here's what happened when one manufacturer connected the back-office too

Business Project
In today’s digital economy, it’s no secret that your company success lies in the hands of your customers and has for a while now.

Customer loyalty is whimsical, expectations are high – and thanks to social media, online reviews and referrals, a few choice words from a customer can propel you to greatness or destroy you.

To succeed these days, your business needs to operate at lightning speed, with systems and internal processes that make sure customers get instant answers, immediate resolutions and have peaceful experiences along the way. Are you prepared?

It’s all about the customer experience

As it is today, most companies narrowly confine customer experience to the front-office within sales, service and marketing domains -- building customer centric strategies that go only half way.

A truly customer-centric organization will connect back-office functions, namely billing, receivables, and product/service delivery to the front-office in order to gain a comprehensive view of your customers. That entails making sure every conversation, every transaction, every request, and every documented customer trait is accessible to all customer-facing staff of the business.

“Where’s my order? Is it held up in distribution? Did a supplier not drop ship on time? Was the order held because the customer owes you money?” The customer service rep that picks up that phone can answer any of those questions and deliver one call resolution.

Case in point - Chambers Gasket & Manufacturing, a 76 year old gasket manufacturer, which not that long ago received product orders from its customers via US mail. Those days are long gone.

Three years ago the company adopted Salesforce CRM for the front office, and shortly after, cloud financials from for the back office – unifying those applications all around the customer on the Salesforce Platform. In very little time, Chambers Gasket was outpacing the competition on processes alone, driving down its cost per transaction and improving one-call resolution.

Serving customers far into the future

chris-kenny chambers-gasket
Chris Kenny

What Chambers Gasket values even more is the infrastructure the company is building to support not only today’s customers, but customers ten years from now and beyond. Chris Kenny, VP of operations with Chambers Gasket sat on a thought-provoking panel at Dreamforce 13 titled “Transforming the Back Office of a Customer Company”, joined by Peter Coffee, VP and head of platform research,, Jeremy Roche, CEO and president,, and Bill Band, VP and principal analyst, application development & delivery, Forrester.

Kenny shared Chambers Gasket’s success story on what a unified front and back office has done for them to make them a customer-centric company. I highly recommend you watch the session.

What struck me the most, was that Kenny knew early on that Salesforce offered much more than CRM, but also a platform, an ecosystem of apps, and mobile and social functionality. He wanted to use all those things as differentiators to support his customer-focused business goals, both short and long term. Kenny says:

“We put our entire ecosystem that serves the customer on one platform.

“That in turn means we can be more responsive to the customer, not just on a quote or sales inquiry, but on orders and production, invoices and credit approvals and everything in between.”

For them, it was all about the customers and giving them information when they want it and how they want it. That meant implementing the right business processes and systems internally, leveraging mobile access, and empowering all departments with 360-degree views of customer transactions and conversations. Kenny adds:

“The ability for Chambers’ main person interacting with the customer to have a view of the entire customer relationship at their fingertips allows us to quickly address any question and move on to growing the business.”

Chambers Gasket’s results to date have been outstanding. Since unifying the front and back office functions, the company has been able to:

  • Lower prices because the cost of interacting with customers has gone down
  • Double work volume without increasing headcount
  • Handle thousands of transactions, whereas prior systems could only handle 500 transactions
  • Respond to customers with real answers, anytime, anywhere
  • Build systems where the customer can actually access their own order information, production dates and roadmaps
  • Invoice customers in ten seconds, instead of ten minutes.
  • Gain total automation across order acknowledgement, the quoting process, and billing

Establishing a customer-centric back office system and becoming a customer-centric company is not going to be an overnight venture. But – as Chris Kenny explained to diginomica's Den Howlett in a video interview last year – it doesn’t have to be painful and the platform, applications, and support are right in front of you.

“To satisfy the customer is the mission and purpose of every business.” – Peter Drucker 1973

Image credits: Customer schematic © Chad McDermott -; Chris Kenny photo courtesy of Chambers Gasket

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