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5 Steps to Writing Better Procedures for Contact Center Reps

knowledgeWriting procedures for your contact center agents can be difficult, and many trainers and managers who are tasked with creating procedures haven't been trained on how to write job aids, procedures, policies, or troubleshooting guides for contact center reps.

If procedures are clear, concise, and complete, then reps can use them to handle every call with fewer mistakes and shorter hold times.

If procedures are difficult to use, then reps have to resort to putting callers on hold while they ask around for help or take a stab at figuring out what to do.

I want to share a five-step process for writing procedures that are clear, concise, and complete. These steps will help you create guides that will enable your reps to improve their first contact resolution, decrease their hold time, and decrease the number of mistakes made.

Decide what type of resource to use for the call

You can create a variety of different types of documents to support your contact center agents on a call. The question is, which resource do you need for different calls?

Some of the different documents you could create include:

  • Reference guide: A resource that provides information. Examples might be an insurance matrix or an ingredients list. Agents reference these when they simply need information.
  • Policy: A resource that helps agents make decisions and answers the questions, “What should I do?” or “What can be done?”
  • Procedures: Step-by-step instructions on how to do tasks. Once an agent knows what to do, procedures guide them on how to do it.
  • Troubleshooting guide: A resource that helps an agent handle problems or error codes. Examples are decision trees or interactive guides that help agents find the problem and/or resolve an issue.
  • Call flow: A complete guide that provides the specific order on how to move through a call, providing prompts for what to say, what questions to ask, and what steps to take.
  • Script: Words and phrases you want agents to say verbatim

Match the calls — meaning the questions being asked — to the appropriate type of resource.

For example, if someone needs to know the hours a certain bank branch is open, you’ll want a reference guide where agents can quickly view the different branches and the hours they are open. Or if your agent needs to figure out why the internet isn’t working, you’ll want to create a troubleshooting guide.

Name your resources to match the callers’ vocabulary

How do you title your resources?

When you title your reference guides, policies, and procedures, name them using the language your reps would use. The vocabulary should match the types of questions that your callers may ask. Avoid professional jargon or unique phrasing.

For example, instead of naming a policy “California Consumer Privacy Act”, you should name it, “What customer information is our business collecting?” or “How to delete a customer’s account”. Those are the requests a rep is likely to hear over the phone.

When you use the same words that your contact center agents encounter when talking to customers, it makes it easier for reps to locate the help guides they need using search.

Capture knowledge from your SMEs

Once you know what type of guide you are creating and the questions being asked, then you’ll need to gather accurate information.

Capture the knowledge from your subject matter experts (SMEs) - your managers, trainers, or even your MVP agents. As you do this, separate the background information from the actionable information. The background information is what needs to be understood and can be taught during training sessions or referenced later. Actionable information is what reps will use when a call comes in and they need to respond.

A helpful way to think about this is by comparing procedures to food recipes. When you need to cook a dish and you’ve only got only a few minutes to get it going, you want the bare-bones recipe — the ingredients, the amounts, and the basics of mixing them. That is your actionable information. The history of the recipe and science behind it — while that’s all very interesting background information and can be helpful in certain situations — it’s the last thing you want to read when you’re in a hurry.

And your agents are almost always in a hurry.

You’ll focus your procedures on the actional information and include links to the background information so that if agents need it, they can quickly access it.

Document the critical path and variables

In a perfect world, how would a procedure happen on a call? The answer to that question is the critical path to the resolution. However, the reality is that procedures don’t happen perfectly every time. Different variables lead to different outcomes.

As you build out your procedures, first document the critical path. This is how a call would go in a perfect scenario. From there, go back and incorporate the variables; in other words, build a decision tree.

For example, if a caller wants to check their balance, the critical path would be to pull up their record and check the balance. A variable might be that they are not the account owner and are not authorized to get that information. In that situation, what should your reps do?

A documented procedure is not complete until you have accounted for the different variables and outcomes. If you don’t acknowledge and provide paths for your agents to follow, they will stop using your documented procedures because they can’t rely on them.

Test your procedures

Did you forget a step in your procedures? Is information missing that agents need to complete a task? Did you write down inaccurate information?

Testing your procedures on practice calls or even real calls will help you catch mistakes before the guides are used across your contact center. This will help you catch any missing variables and outcomes. Use the information you gather from listening to agents follow your procedural guides to make edits to your procedures.