Structuring front office and back office work in service delivery systems: An empirical study of three design decisions

Leonleke G. Zomerdijk*, Jan de Vries

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

85 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose - The aim of this paper is to investigate how the distinction between contact and non-contact activities influences the design of service delivery systems and to identify key design decisions for structuring front office and back office work.

Design/methodology/approach - Building on current literature, the paper identifies three design decisions and associated performance trade-offs. The design decisions regard the degree of customer contact in the process, the decoupling of activities and the grouping of employees. The design decisions and the trade-offs are empirically validated in five case studies of 15 service delivery systems in the financial services sector.

Findings - Distinguishing between the three design decisions is more suitable for describing today's practices than traditional front office - back office thinking. For each design decision a trade-off was observed consisting of several design considerations. However, the trade-offs do not involve the weighing of one set of performance objectives against another, as the design choices contribute to the same objectives, yet in different ways.

Research limitations/implications - This study concentrated on a limited number of cases in the financial services sector. The contents of the trade-offs should be tested on a larger scale and in different industries. In order to develop design guidelines, future research should also examine the impact of contingency factors, such as the service being delivered and strategic priorities.

Originality/value - The three design decisions and the trade-offs improve understanding of the impact of customer contact on a service organisation and provide support for designing service delivery systems in practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)108-131
Number of pages24
JournalInternational Journal of Operations & Production Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Event12th International Conference of the European-Operations-Management-Association (EurOMA) - , Hungary
Duration: 1-Jun-2005 → …


  • service operations
  • process planning
  • customer relations
  • service delivery systems
  • case studies
  • TEAM

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