Life in a call center moves fast and as a trainer or director, it seems that there is always a new training issue that is cropping up. One task that can take a very long time is writing new call flows for your agents. While these guides can be helpful in reducing training time and eliminating mistakes, they can be time-consuming to create.
In our previous article, "How to format your Call Flows in Word to make them more effective”, we explained how to optimize your existing call flows. In this article, we are going to give you some tips on how to write a call flow from scratch. Following these tips will help you write call flows that are clear and effective in less time.
Be clear about your purpose
Before you get started, you need to be clear about your purpose. The purpose of a call flow is to help an agent know exactly what to say, ask, and do on a call. You may have other documents that describe policies, background information, or anecdotal stories, that can be used in training situations. The call flow, however, should be designed to help the agent while they are on the phone. If we can keep that purpose in mind then it will make it easier to make decisions about what should and shouldn't be included in the call flow.
Just remember this: The call flow needs to help the agent know what to say, ask, and do without putting the caller on hold.
Here is how to write a call flow in Microsoft Word:
- Decide what not to include
- Outline the critical path and branches
- List suggested "prompts"
- Review for completeness
- Iterate, clarify, and simplify
1. Decide what not to include
Committing to clarity means that you are going to remove all unnecessary details from the call flow. When an agent is on the phone with a caller, they don't have time to read a lot of information, so you will need to format the call flow so that it can easily be scanned.
What does that mean? It means that your English teacher would probably strongly disapprove of your call flow. Instead of a narrative, you will have bulleted lists. Instead of complete sentences, you will have short fragments or prompts. The more that an agent has to read or review a document, the harder it will be for them to use the flow without putting the customer on hold. That is exactly what we want to avoid if at all possible.
What needs to be left out?
- Policies (unless they need to be read to the caller)
- Background information
While all of these items can be used during training, they will only serve to clutter up a call flow when an agent is trying to use that flow while on a call.
2. Outline the critical path along with branches
Now that you know what you won't include, it is time to define the critical path. Open up your Word document and create a numbered or bulleted list. Try to outline each step of a call. This should list the major milestones and decisions that need to be made during a call. Let's take an example of a caller trying to schedule a medical appointment. Here is an example of what the critical path might look like.
Pro Tip: Choose "Multilevel List" from the formatting menu. You will be adding a lot of levels to this list and it will be clearer if you use a Multilevel list.
Example critical path
The list above outlines the major sections of the call. We haven't gone into too much detail yet, but it lets us know the key milestones of the call.
This looks really simple but unfortunately real life is more complicated than this. There are definitely going to be some branches in this call flow so we need to make sure that we account for those. Branches should be listed as Yes/No or multiple choice questions whenever possible.
Pro Tip: Avoid using if/then statements in your call flows. Using Yes/No questions will be easier for your agents to scan quickly while on a call. For example, instead of saying:
"If the caller is not the patient then make sure that you write down what their relationship is to the patient."
You could say:
Is the caller the patient?
- No: Write down what their relationship is to the patient
Here is the same call flow as above with some branches included:
As you can see, by outlining the critical path and branches in a list format we can quickly make the steps in the call flow very clear to the agent.
3. List suggested "prompts"
Now that we have our critical path we want to go back and add suggested prompts that will help the agent know what to say and ask.
Note: Some people are opposed to using scripts in their call center because they are afraid that their agents will sound robotic. Read this, "If I use scripts in ScreenSteps, won't my agents sound robotic?" if you are concerned about this.
The agent may not read these prompts verbatim, but they will help guide them as to what to say or ask as they go through the call. We suggest formatting the prompt text in a different color and with italics so that the prompts stand out. See the example below.
4. Review for completeness
Now that we have listed out the critical path and have added prompts, we want to review the call flow for completeness. Here are some questions to ask ourselves:
- Are there branches that we haven't considered? For example, what if the patient wants to pay in cash and not use their insurance? Or what if the doctor they were referred to doesn't have immediate availability but the patient needs an appointment right away? These might be additional branches that we would need to add to our outline.
- Have we told the agent how to "do" each step? When we say verify their insurance, do we need to provide a step-by-step guide on how to do that? When we say to add the patient to the scheduling system, should we include a step-by-step guide including screenshots that shows them how to do this?
Pro Tip: As you review your call flow for completeness you may find that you are having to add a lot of detail in the different branches. If you add too many nested lists to your call flow, it can become hard for your agent to follow. One option is to create a separate call flow for the sub-procedure and instruct the agent to follow that guide when they get to that point in the call flow. For example, we might have a separate call fow for "How to add a patient to the scheduling system" that we would tell the agent to use at that stage of the call flow. This will reduce the complexity of the call flow and make our call flows easier to keep up to date.
5. Iterate, clarify, and simplify
By now you should have a very useful call flow. But your work isn't done yet. The last step is to test it with real agents. Notice areas where they get stuck or confused. Improve those sections. Even running through a call flow a few times with an agent will help you notice areas where you can clarify and simplify the call flow.
One way to clarify the call flow is to add bold, italics, and colors to the flow to highlight key parts and decisions. See the example below.
You can do this!
Writing call flows can seem overwhelming at first, but by using this simple process you will be able to create call flows that your agents will love to use. One thing to be aware of is that as you deal with more and more complex call flows, you will encounter some challenges in formatting the contents. You can end up with nested lists that get too nested. If you find yourself in that situation you might want to look at Interactive Conversation Flows in ScreenSteps. Interactive Conversation Flows allow you to present extremely complex call flows in a simple format that any agent can follow.