Agents Lack Accountability? It’s Your Call Center Workflow

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A call center workflow is a pre-planned set of processes, tasks, and steps that can help agents resolve incoming customer service inquiries by following consistent patterns and established procedures. In other words, if an individual agent isn’t at fault when an interaction with a customer has a poor outcome, it’s very likely your existing customer service workflow is to blame.

In order to rectify and prevent these instances from occurring too often, it’s important to learn how to recognize suboptimal workflows so you can take ownership of the problem and keep things within your control. 

The Connection Between Your Call Center Workflow and Agent Accountability

If a call center doesn’t have a properly established workflow, it’s very easy for agents to shirk their responsibilities whenever a customer call goes wrong. On the other hand, if a call center does have a well-defined workflow, then agents will actually be able to tell when they ought to continue sorting out a customer issue on their own as opposed to escalating the ticket up the chain of command. 

In many ways, this reduces confusion and allows them to take more accountability—which can also help them develop their problem-solving skills on the job.

For example, imagine a customer contacts your call center to process a return for a defective product, but the return can’t be completed until the customer receives a follow-up call due to some missing information during the first call. Meanwhile, the agent assumes that the finance department will be alerted once the product comes in—after which they’ll be prompted to conduct the follow-up call. What ends up happening here is that the finance department is never alerted, the follow-up call never happens, and the customer calls back weeks later asking where their refund money is, much to the confusion of the agent. 

Circling back to the initial conditions, we can easily trace this misunderstanding back to the lack of a proper call center workflow. There’s nothing in it stating who is responsible for sorting out the details that would prompt the follow-up call, so everyone ends up pointing fingers at each other to avoid taking the blame.

Clearly, if there had been an established workflow in place to deal with these situations, this wouldn’t have happened. Here’s an example:

  • A customer wants to process a product return while failing to deliver all the required financial details
  • The assigned agent initiates the product return and escalates the issue to the finance department
  • The finance department is then responsible for initiating a follow-up call to the customer to gather the missing details ensure the return is processed correctly

So we’ve had one example, yes, but what about a second example? 

Coming right up. 

Imagine one of your greenest agents is tasked to make an outbound call to a customer so they can talk about the latest version of your top-selling product and why it behooves them to make an upgrade in the next three months. 

First of all, remember that these types of outbound calls typically fall under the umbrella of sales, telemarketing, and lead-generation campaigns, so they can be overwhelming for junior-level or otherwise inexperienced agents to make—especially when they’re new to cold calling and the privacy-invading sensation that making an unsolicited offer can bring. 

Since your agent isn’t well-versed in contemporary sales tactics yet, they feel like they’re overstepping their bounds and end up going off-script by improvising their promotion of the product—which both flops and reflects poorly on your company. Meanwhile, without an established workflow to follow, your agent may ascribe their lack of a sale to bad luck rather than the fact that they decided to go rogue by freestyling during the call. 

In cases like this, it’s better to create an outbound workflow that can guide sales conversations with a decision tree that accounts for certain keywords and sentiments—such as when the customer is on the fence about a certain choice. This workflow doesn’t have to be hyper-specific, but it should still address all of the most common interactions from beginning to end.

As a third and final example, imagine another one of your newest agents is on a call with a customer who has problems installing the latest firmware for their recently purchased wireless headset. The customer explains the problem in great detail, but the agent hasn’t gained enough technical knowledge to point the caller to the right department. Meanwhile, the caller grows impatient and asks to speak to a manager. In fear of experiencing retaliation from their boss, the agent responds by telling the customer that they’ll call them back later with a possible solution and ends the call.

In this scenario, three things happened: first, the agent’s technical unpreparedness made them ill-equipped to handle the customer’s issue, so they prolonged the problem by offering a temporary placeholder instead of an answer. Second, the customer was unsatisfied with the customer support they received, so it becomes less likely that they’d return as a customer or recommend your business to friends and family. Third, the agent circumvented taking accountability by chalking it up as not being properly trained by their managers.

So who is to blame here? Technically, it’s the lack of a proper workflow.

How to Fix Your Call Center Workflow to Improve Agent Accountability

Clearly, one of the best ways to improve agent accountability is to create ample flowcharts and established guidelines for as many core call center processes you can. 

To start, a good practice is to create a visual representation of all the steps agents need to take to resolve a process or phone call once it arrives in your center. Here’s a general example for handling inbound calls that aim to purchase a product:

  • A caller is interested in finding out more about a certain product
  • The agent picks up the call and answers any questions the caller has about the product
  • The caller agrees to purchase the product
  • The agent routes the call to the finance department to process the purchase
  • A post-purchase email is automatically sent to the caller’s email on file

These workflows should be accessible in your call center software or in a separately available folder of a cloud storage solution. Your agents shouldn’t have to memorize these charts, but they should have fast access to them and a general understanding of how to implement workflows specific to their departments. You can also consider printing out the charts and displaying them in your call center for easy reference, or hand them out to your agents as flyers and cue cards.

Top 5 Benefits of Call Center Workflow Flowcharts

Using workflow charts can be immensely beneficial for a couple of reasons beyond improving agent productivity and accountability. 

1. Workflows help reduce processing times

Visual diagrams can help lead to the identification and automation of repetitive tasks, thereby reducing the time it takes to run a given process from start to finish. Additionally, process-specific workflow charts can also help you uncover (and later optimize) the bottlenecks in your existing systems.

For instance, if you know that your call center representatives are having a hard time keeping up with high-volume inbound calls, you can implement a call center automation tool to help consolidate all client requests in one place. This will free up time so that your agents can focus on providing great customer service instead of drudging through repetitive tasks like documenting incoming calls.

2. Workflow flowcharts can help keep track of processes for later improvement

A flowchart can also serve as a tool that helps you document key insights about the projects, processes, and solutions your team members work on. 

This may include details such as:

  • Who is assigned to implement and maintain the process
  • How your agents carry out a process
  • How the process has changed over time

Ultimately, this information can serve as the foundational basis for developing future flowcharts, helping you improve them as you go.

3. Workflows help with task delegation

Managing a large call center team can introduce additional complexities to your day-to-day operations and make task delegation a complicated, multifaceted process. It can also be hard to recognize the workloads that your agents and teams are handling as well.

As a decision-maker, having a workflow chart in handy can provide you with a clear overview of how particular business processes are handled, making task delegation easier to carry out.

4. Call center workflows can stimulate agents to act faster

Many callers will only contact your call center when they have a unique request. In some cases, your team will be equipped to solve these requests through a single interaction. In other cases,  they may need to escalate the request to a different department, manager, or team.

The timing between a serious request and how quickly it gets escalated will most likely depend on the decision-making of your call center agents. A flowchart that maps exactly what to do in these circumstances can go a long way in helping your agents act quickly and efficiently.

5. Workflows encourage better communication between agents

Once your representatives get used to having more agency and taking proper accountability for their actions, they can start working on improving how they communicate with other team members—both inside and outside of their respective departments. As a result, they’ll become a more cohesive unit that you can rely on for better overall performance. 


A well-developed and properly utilized collection of call center workflows leads to increased agent accountability and a significant improvement in customer satisfaction. 

Specifically, effective workflow diagrams can serve as standardized documentation that your team members can refer to whenever they get into a tricky situation—be it with an existing customer or a new client. In either case, the point is to equip your business with highly functional workflows and to have ways of fixing those that aren’t providing the results you want.

Interested in getting the most out of your workflow tools? Try incorporating some of the best workflow management software into your business processes today. 

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