A ‘workflow’ may not sound like the most exciting thing in the world, but it’s the backbone of everything we do – even getting ready for work in the morning or writing this article requires a specific workflow.
What is a customer service workflow?
Think about a sequence of actions. You can start with one action that leads to another action, that gets split into two possible actions, and so on. Workflows act as a visual representation of a step by step process, that may sometimes have different outcomes depending on the scenario.
In customer service, a basic workflow might look something like this:
Customer calls with a complaint → Agent picks up → Agent apologizes and offers solution → Customer accepts → Issue resolved OR Customer declines → Customer churns
Why should I build customer service workflows?
Customer service workflows like the one above often exist implicitly, without the process ever being documented and optimized. This is a missed opportunity, both to improve efficiency, but also to boost customer satisfaction.
That’s why it’s useful to visualize workflows as much as possible. Doing this helps you:
- Understand the customer service processes your business needs and document the information flow
- Ensure consistency in how things are done, especially in customer-facing situations
- Make onboarding of new team members and customers easier
- Identify steps that can be automated or streamlined with the right technology
All these are substantial business benefits, and they’re probably why the workflow management market is expected to see an annual growth of 27.7 percent from 2019 to 2025.
Here, we explore six customer service workflow examples you can draw from, and reiterate a few steps you can follow, to build your own.
6 customer service workflow examples
Keep in mind that your workflows will probably become more complicated as you add in details unique to your company – but the examples will help you visualize the process on a high level and eliminate unnecessary steps.
Customer support workflow
The most common customer service scenario that comes to everyone’s mind is issue resolution – where the customer calls in, sends a message with a specific question, or asks for troubleshooting.
This is an important process to visualize and optimize because it’s very time-sensitive. The customer demands a quick, as well as satisfactory, solution.
Here’s an example workflow:
Customer calls → Customer is asked contact details by automated voice assistant → Customer waits on hold until agent becomes available → Agent picks up and asks how they can help → Customer explains their issue → Agent asks for clarifications → Agent opens a ticket if needed → Agent provides a solution OR escalates issue to right person
This workflow could become more complex depending on your company. For example, at the “customer explains their issue” step, it may turn out that the customer has called the wrong department. In this case, the agent should re-route the call or open a ticket and tell the customer they’ll call them back.
Also, it’s important to take into account the different channels you have available for support. For example, if you offer phone support, live chat support, and email support, (and it’s highly recommended you do), you can have different workflows for each.
To build a workflow that’s specific to your business, ask questions like:
- Which channels do customers use to ask for support?
- What are the most common issues that come up?
- Do I have effective self-service options?
- What’s the process for escalating issues?
- Do agents have a comprehensive database of frequently asked questions and answers to draw from?
- How do I keep track of tickets/conversations/issues?
- Can any of the steps be automated?
These kinds of questions are meant to help identify the different steps your customers take in their journey and to help ensure there are no bottlenecks in your workflows.
Learn more about the intricacies and trends of support workflows in our Ultimate Guide to Customer Support.
Like we said above, companies may offer different channels for support. A chatbot is one of these channels – which can also be used for lead generation. Its benefits include 24/7 service and effective triaging of issues before agents are called in.
Having a customer service workflow for your chatbot means you can make the customer conversations with it more efficient. Imagine if your chatbot kept asking customers the same questions or didn’t understand what they said. This lack of efficiency and effectiveness costs more money than it saves in the long run.
Here’s a sample chatbot template workflow for support:
Customer types a phrase or sentence → Chatbot responds to offer its services → Customer asks a question → Chatbot matches question to its database → Chatbot gives customer a set of questions to choose from → Customer chooses option → Chatbot responds
For lead generation, the workflow could look like this:
Visitor lands on website → Chatbot asks a question → Customer opens chatbot tab → Chatbot asks if the visitor would like to learn more about something → Customer accepts → Chatbot asks for name and email address
Consider your chatbot's functions and train it to understand at least the most common questions that will come in from customers. Build a chatbot workflow diagram around possible conversation scenarios.
Product feedback loop
The product feedback loop is about businesses establishing ways to document and act upon customer feedback.
Although it’s a largely internal process, it has far-reaching consequences for the customer. Imagine, for instance, that a customer calls in to say that a batch of a certain edible product caused health problems. Or, in the software space, that there’s a persistent bug costing them money.
So, companies need to be clear about how to communicate their feedback and to whom. Will there be a system, like Jira, that coordinates this process? Will it be another form of documentation? Or will this be a direct communication process, using a messaging app, like Slack?
Here’s a sample workflow:
Customer leaves feedback → Agent thanks them → Agent opens a ticket explaining the issue and assigns it → Product team considers the issue → Product team fixes it OR files it for later → Product team updates the agent → Agent follows up with customer if needed.
To create a functioning customer service workflow for feedback, you can ask questions like:
- How should agents respond to feedback?
- How should we document feedback?
- Who’s responsible for checking feedback?
- How and when do we follow up with customers?
- How do we share positive feedback without opening a ticket?
By the way, if you occasionally feel shy replying to positive feedback from customers, we have a few good email templates you can adopt.
Customer order workflow
One of the most important customer service workflows is for customer orders.
Especially if you sell physical products which make the order process more complex, you need to know your workflows. This knowledge will help you streamline shipping and returns, coordinate with the finance department for billings, and identify what went wrong in cases when the customer doesn’t receive the right product, or even receive the product at all.
Here’s a sample workflow:
Customer places order → automatic invoice is generated and sent to customer → invoice is sent to the finance department → order is confirmed → warehouse receives order and checks inventory → warehouse updates inventory and website → package is shipped → tracking number is created and sent to customer → customer receives package.
A workflow for digital products would be similar, though without irrelevant steps such as warehouse and shipping.
Shopping cart workflow
Shopping cart abandonment is a particularly annoying problem for businesses – customers come so close to buying, and then drop out at the very last minute.
But, if you have a high abandonment rate, it’s usually fixable, and having a workflow can help you do that. That’s because you can check each step individually and find out where the problems are. For example, one website might make it laborious for customers to fill out forms by asking for too much extraneous information. Another website may experience a lag during payment, or make it hard to check return policies or calculate delivery costs. You get the drift.
So, here’s a sample customer service workflow for the shopping cart:
Customer adds products to cart → Checks products and prices → Calculates delivery costs → Clicks on ‘buy now’ → Chooses ‘buy as guest’ or ‘open account’ → Adds contact details and address → Adds coupon or discount numbers → Reviews order → Clicks ‘proceed to payment’ → Pays via secure system → Receives thank you message and order confirmation email.
To make this workflow more efficient, ask questions like:
- Do we clearly show the options to create an account or buy without creating an account?
- How clear is the order summary before purchasing? (e.g. product names, sizes, quantity, and images included)
- Do we ask only for the necessary details?
- Are we transparent with our policies?
- Do we offer as many payment options as possible? (e.g. credit/debit card, paypal, bank transfer)
- Are we offering quick ways for customers to ask last-minute questions? (e.g. live chat or chatbot)
- Is our website fast enough to meet customer demands?
Customer onboarding workflow
Although the concept of customer onboarding is more common in the SaaS space, all companies can offer an onboarding experience.
For example, if you sell clothes, you can send an email when a customer opens an account, telling them about upcoming collections or providing them with discounts and information on how to use them. If you sell services, you can also have a call with a customer to explain your processes and your way of working.
Building a workflow here will involve looking into any communications you have with customers after they buy. What your company may consider up-selling, or perhaps not consider at all, may actually be an onboarding process. If you don’t have any actions like that, you can always consider creating one from scratch.
Here’s a sample workflow for SaaS:
Customer makes a purchase → Company sends set up email with useful resources → Customer success team sets up a call → Team and customer talk about goals and milestones → Team and customer implement software → Team conducts training sessions → Team asks for feedback → Customer uses product → Team checks in at milestones
And here’s a sample workflow you can adapt based on your needs:
Customer makes a purchase → Customer receives set up email → Agent monitors activity and IF customer doesn’t take actions, agent reaches out to help → Agent sends useful resources (e.g. video or guide) → Agent sets up call if needed → Customer uses product → Agents checks in
5 steps to build a customer service workflow
Each business will have its own needs, but here’s an approach that can work well for building customer service workflows:
- Understand the process. If you’re building any of the workflows above, we’ve already discussed some questions that will be helpful to ask during this step. If you suspect there are undocumented processes running behind the scenes, review and analyze your customer service function (e.g. what are the everyday tasks of the team?).
- Identify overall challenges. Perhaps some of your KPIs aren’t going well. Maybe you’re facing issues with resource allocation, or your current tech stack is inefficient. It helps to have an idea of what you want to address beforehand.
- Build out workflows. You can use a tool like Invision or Microsoft Visio to visualize the workflows, but Excel or Google Sheets may work, too. Combine your own knowledge of processes with insight you draw from colleagues, KPIs, and maybe even customers. Describe each step and list out what resources and information are needed.
- Contrast what is with what should be. When you build a workflow, you may put down that the agent creates a ticket after the customer calls in, and then the team resolves the ticket. But is this the most efficient way to do this? Maybe you can fully automate these steps with technology (e.g. a self-service option or live chat). Similarly, you may find that too much time is spent on one particular step of the workflow. Find ways to cut the waste or streamline.
- Test and refine. Looking at our customer service workflow examples, you’ll see that things could be so much easier. But the how isn’t always clear. You can learn that by actually testing a few good options and gathering more data and information.
One customer service workflow for each process
We know, it sounds like a lot to do. But, creating these workflows is essential to having a clear understanding of your customer service process.
Once you get this down, it’ll be much easier to see where inefficiencies are and will also become clear whether a process with multiple steps could even be entirely replaced by a new customer experience platform.