As customer service professionals we all know that first impressions are vitally important. But what we may not all realize is just how little time we actually have to make a good one. According to psychological research, we form opinions within the first seven seconds of meeting new people and encountering new situations.

In less than the time it takes to answer a text message, we can form a solid impression of who a person or brand is. Even more surprising, some research suggests a tenth of a second is all it takes to get a sense for traits like trustworthiness and reliability.

That means the proverbial “first impressions” clock is always ticking — and this is where an intelligently designed call flow can swoop in to help you get off on the right foot with customers.

When a customer contacts your brand they want answers fast. Mere seconds isn’t enough time to talk about your history, address service blunders, or convey the full magnitude of your brand’s wonders. When the pressure is on to get to a resolution fast, your agents don’t have the luxury of time to address misconceptions.

So what’s one thing you can do to make a better first impression with customers? Create a seamless, clear, and intuitive call flow.

What is a Call Flow?

Well, technically speaking call flows can refer to two different, equally important things:

  1. The conversational flow of your agent’s script.
  2. The way a call is routed within your system. 

To begin, let’s tackle #1.

The conversation flow will vary depending on the reason for each call. A customer who contacts your brand to reschedule an appointment is not going to have the same interaction as the person who contacts you because they need to report a suspicious charge on their account or would like to increase their credit line.

To ensure you’re tailoring each interaction to the issue at hand while also streamlining your scripting process, follow these handy tips.

Setup an Intelligent IVR – First and foremost, utilize an IVR to pre-screen customers and knock out “low” hanging fruit such as identification, the number they’re calling from in the event of a disconnection, and the reason for their call. All of the above will help to frontload “administrative” work for your agents and make them all the more speedy in handling calls. Your customers will get what they want faster, and your agents will be able to get to the root of issues quicker without digging for the information.

It’s a win-win for all involved, really.

And as far as script structure is concerned, consider these basics:

  • Friendly greetingsHello valued customer, great to hear from you!
  • AuthenticationWould you mind verifying your address for me to ensure we’ve got the most recent information on file?
  • Identify the IssueI understand you’re calling about [X].
  • Be UnderstandingI’m sorry to hear you’re having trouble with that. 
  • Get to troubleshooting. Let’s see how I can help. 
  • RecapOk, valued customer, today we updated your address and created a claim for your stolen credit card. 
  • Branding/Upsrving. Did you know that you can manage your claim via SMS? By opting in to receive text messages from us you can skip the line in the future. Would you like to receive SMS notifications from us going forward?

What Are the Benefits of Call Flows? 

In a perfect world, all calls would unfold exactly to plan, providing the customer with just the right information or resolution they were looking for, right away. But, as you well know, that’s not the case in 100% of interactions. Call flows help you increase efficiency and achieve more effective resolutions more of the time.

To use a real-world example, let’s say you call your favorite restaurant to make a reservation. The phone response system gives you three options: press 1 to hear hours of operation, press 2 to get directions or press 3 to be connected to a host for reservations. Upon pressing 3, however, you’re informed that the restaurant is closed and you should call back during normal business hours. Frustrating, right? Call flows can ensure customers are given the appropriate options based on the time of day. So, in this scenario, they’d get an ‘after hours’ message with specific information about when to call back to make a reservation (or ideally, offering a self-service system to do it automatically!).

Similarly, call flows can help ensure calls are routed straight to the right person rather than having to bounce around between several representatives before getting to the right one. This can cut a tedious 10 or 15-minute call down to a painless two-minute interaction. These are the kinds of small experiences that build your brand’s positive reputation over time, aiding in customer retention.

By taking a look at how customers work their way through your call flows, you can improve scheduling efficiency almost immediately. To use the same restaurant scenario we just discussed, you might find that a disproportionate number of people are calling in the morning, when you’re closed, to make reservations for that evening. If you’re not taking action to address those missed calls, you’re losing out on revenue. Instead, you might route callers who are making a reservation to a remote agent who can help them outside of normal business hours or direct them to your online scheduling tool.

What Does an Ideal Call Flow Look Like? 

There’s a lot of information out there advising on how to create the perfect call flow. But few sources really stop to consider the fact that in an omnichannel ecosystem where customers enter your business through any number of digital channels, call flows are no longer limited to just voice calls.

Remember a successful call flow should be a road map for what your customer experiences. With so many entry points in an omnichannel environment, a better way to think about structuring flows may be to think of call routing as the first step in defining your customer journey.

From this perspective, you’re better positioned to integrate your phone system with digital channels.

How Do You Set Up an Omnichannel Call Flow?

Very few brands actually have omnichannel interactions with their customers today. That is because the approach to adding channels has been piecemeal and integration with existing systems is a challenge. As a result, the digital aspects of the customer journey are not added properly and exist in siloes or stacks, as shown in the hypothetical call flow below on the left.

In a true omnichannel call flow, all channels and data are unified regardless of which channel the customer entered your business through, as outlined in the hypothetical call flow on the right.

Your customer interactions reflect your technology stack. If your channels are siloed your customer experience will mirror that fracture.

To achieve a true omnichannel call flow, integrate information across disparate systems with the goal of creating a single view of your customers and expand call flow logic beyond just voice calls.

Doing so turns that old, tired roadmap into a freeway map that intersects and reroutes across voice, SMS, webchat, and email so that you can get your customers where they want to go faster.

What makes a better impression than that?

Helpful Call Flow Tips 

Use scripting, but allow for flexibility

Scripting serves multiple purposes. It helps agents stay on brand with their messaging and save time when formulating how to speak to a customer. As the old adage goes, don’t reinvent the wheel. It’s also a highly effective compliance tool, helping ensure the legally required language is inserted into every conversation, particularly in heavily regulated industries like finance and healthcare.

That said, scripting shouldn’t be rigid. Agents are humans dealing with other humans, which sometimes calls for improvisation. Allowing some room for flexibility will keep interactions from feeling stilted and lend an important element of personalization to your calls.

Use call recordings to your advantage

One of the best resources for creating winning scripts is right under your nose–or in this case, your fingertips: your own call recordings. Use your most successful calls to analyze which phrasing and language goes over best with customers, then borrow it to inject into your scripts. This will keep them sounding conversational rather than robotic.

Consider all possibilities

Sometimes a customer knows exactly what they need when they call you. Other times they need a little help getting there. In some cases, the call might take a totally different direction than an agent initially expected. This is why it’s important to build multiple scenarios into your script. Think of it as a choose-your-own-adventure, call center style. Help agents get to where the customer wants to go by considering all possible outcomes when creating scripts.

Hire for excellent customer service skills

Even the most well-written script can’t help an agent convey sincerity; that has to come from their innate ability to connect with customers in an authentic way. If agents don’t have this skill, you’ll frequently find them falling back on repeat phrases like “your business is important to us” that just sounds awkward when used more than once. To avoid this, put customer service skills at the top of your list when hiring. Remember, you can train for technical skills like using a computer application much more easily than soft skills like managing difficult people.

Analytics and KPIs to design a better customer experience flow

Once you have determined the customer experience flow that works best for your organization, it is essential to track customer experience metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to enhance customer satisfaction. 

Analytics can provide insights into customer behavioral patterns and preferences. This helps identify areas of improvement in customer service processes as well as potential customer service problems. Through customer feedback and customer journey mapping, customer service analytics can provide a comprehensive view of customer needs and customer experience flow patterns.

Some customer service KPIs to track include:

  • Customer wait times
  • Customer satisfaction surveys
  • First call resolution rate
  • Average handle time (AHT)
  • Abandonment rate
  • Customer effort score (CES)
  • Customer churn rate

These customer service KPIs allow customer service teams to establish benchmarks and determine customer experience improvement opportunities. 

Analytics and customer feedback can also be used to identify customer trends, such as peak customer times or frequent customer requests. Taking into account customer trends when designing a customer service call flow process helps ensure that customers are having positive customer experiences even during peak customer times. 

Overall, analytics and customer feedback can be invaluable tools to help customer service teams design customer experience flow processes that provide customers with the best possible customer service.

Call flow examples

Once customer service teams have established customer service KPIs and customer trends, they can begin to design customer service call flow processes. 

The most effective call flows are those that provide customers with an easy customer journey. For instance, some customer experience flows may require a customer to navigate interactive voice response (IVR) menus or website portals. Other call flows may involve customer service agents guiding customers through the customer experience. 

Ultimately, customer service teams should design customer experience flow processes that are easy to navigate and provide a seamless customer journey. Here are some examples of customer flow processes:

  • Automated customer service process: This customer service flow process relies on IVR menus and customer service bots to provide customer service. 
  • Agent-assisted customer service process: This customer service flow process combines automated customer service with customer agents who can assist with customer inquiries.
  • Hybrid customer service process: This customer service flow process combines both automated customer services and agent-assisted customer services, allowing customers to choose the customer service route that works best for their needs.

By utilizing customer analytics and customer feedback, your contact center team can design customer experience flows that provide customers with the best possible service.