In the worlds of business and finance, the front office typically describes all of the functions that involve customer interaction. For example, in a retail scenario, front office functions might include sales transactions, informational resources, and all customer service activities. In a banking context, front office systems are similar to those in retail in that they are focused on customer service, though instead of selling products and services, bankers might collect information regarding clients' financial statuses and credit histories. Front office systems are any computer programs that enable front office workers to perform their jobs. In retail, a good example of this type of system is a cash register that automatically transfers sales data to back office systems.
Front office systems are, in most cases, connected to other departments and offices within an establishment. Banks, for example, might include systems in their front offices where bankers can enter client applications for loans and accounts. This information is then accessed by individuals in a back office perform credit checks and ensure the validity of information. Applications might then be passed on to managers or other high level officials who can approve or reject applications.
In retail, it is common to find front office systems that enable cashiers and other customer service representatives to perform sales transactions, look up information about products, such as cost, sale dates, and inventory numbers, and make changes to customer accounts. Information recorded in these systems is often available to professionals in marketing, accounting, and finance departments. These back office professionals use information entered into front office systems to generate sales records and client profiles.
It is also common to find these types of systems in the hospitality industry. Receptionists at hotels, for example, use front office scheduling programs to set reservations. Restaurant managers can also use these programs to make decisions about how to staff each shift and how much food to order from suppliers.
Businesses with strong Internet presences might have front office systems that include client interfaces. For example, clients who order shoes online might go to a website where they enter their contact and payment information and order products of their choice. This information is automatically uploaded into back office systems that allow inventory professionals to ship out orders and finance professionals to record transactions.
In conventional retail and banking scenarios where clients shop in physical establishments, it is common for owners and managers to purchase systems that they implement into their present business systems. Systems often include software and hardware, such as cash registers and bar code scanners. Other kinds of organizations, such as Internet businesses, might subscribe to software as a service systems that they can access for a fee without having to commit to ownership.