Module 5 : Flows 101

Today, we’ll  walk you through the following: 

  • A regular text message versus a flow

  • A step-by-step guide to building a flow in the platform

  • Tips for writing outbound SMS messages

  • 2 ways to take your flow building to the next level!

There are a lot of ways to send a message, and all of them are “right,” and “good,” so long as it works for the sender and receiver.  Flows are exactly the same: There are a lot of ways to build a flow, and all of them are “right and “good” so long as it works for the sender and receiver.

What’s different about flow-building? 

A flow is a visual representation of a contact’s experience. A flow can be simple – as short as a single message. With flow building, you build a technical sequence and then users get to select their own path through their choices

– or complex – a series of messages and actions based on conditional branch logic. 


Conversational design

A great search term to learn more or broaden your thinking is “conversational design” which asks us to consider: 

  • What is important to the people I’m messaging today, and how can I make their lives easier?

  • What will success look like for this send?

  • Does this flow exacerbate problems that others are currently trying to solve in this context?

  • Does this design create new problems for users?


Let’s walk through building a flow together so you can see this in action.

  1. Choose a naming convention. 

  2. Determine how your flow will be initiated. You might invite users to text the word START to a phone number.

  3. The first thing you do is click Create Message. 

  4. We at CCL always start with Split by group membership.  

  5. Then build off of your previous action step. You can do this by clicking the node you’d like and dragging it. 

  6. Next, you’ll want to Set channel (even when there’s only one channel in the account) This will help curate the user experience by ensuring you’re sending from a specific number.

  7. Now, when you intend to send your flow in multiple languages, there are a few different ways you can program the user experience. To review your particular use case and identify the best-fit strategy for you, speak with your CCL account manager.


Now that you’re ready to send a message, you’ll want to use best practices when writing content for SMS. 

  1. Identify yourself

  2. Include compliance text as needed

  3. Ensure any Calls-to-Action (CTA) are clear

  4. Use the simulator tool to approximate the user experience.

  5. Send a test message to yourself and/or designated quality assurance supporters

    1. Are all special characters coming through?

    2. Did URLs come through correctly and are they clickable?

    3. Does the timing of one flow step to the next feel right to you?

    4. Is it easy to read, and have you avoided sending a text wall?

Disclaimer: There are a lot of technical pieces to consider here, alongside your communications strategy. As a best practice, our in-house quality assurance team extensively reviews 65+ specs for each given flow. We encourage you to conduct your own QA review before launching a flow to your contacts. To help with this, we’ll provide you with documentation, sample flows and, as always - reach out to us for support.

Now, after we’ve sent a message, we sometimes want to wait for user engagement before proceeding. This is the conversational design approach we talked about earlier.

Wait for the contact to respond can be used for any reason, but the top two reasons are: 

  1. You want to pause the flow so you’re not bombarding the user with follow-up messages.

  2. Here you want to think through the end-user experience. Do users need time to read, digest, or think to respond to you? Determining the wait time depends on the user experience.


Wait for Response is a critical action step in any survey flow because it allows the user an opportunity to respond. A wait for response also allows you, the messenger, to decide what you’d like to occur if a contact does or does not respond.


Other common action steps include Add to Group, Remove from Group, Enter a flow, or Remove from flow. Use these as necessary to make the most of your flow. For more on Groups and how they can help you achieve your mission, check out Module 2.

Three ways to take your flow-building to the next level:

Data Collection

You can use the ActionSet: 'Save Response As' to retain users’ responses. These responses can be used for analysis, follow-up outreach, or to inform your program offerings. 


  • Be specific about the data you’re wanting back: “Great! How many people are attending? Please provide a number. For example: 4”

  • Send someone else a message: “@Contact has RSVPed”

  • Label the incoming message: Used to label responses, so that they can be easily reviewed in bulk. E.g. “Do you have any accommodation requests for the upcoming event?” 

  • If you ask a question like: “What email would you like us to use?” then you can “ADD URN” and Include an Email address @

Look Up Tables

Using look-up tables means that you can collect information, like a zip code, from users and provide them with tailored responses. A long-time client of ours has offered giftcards to folks who provide them with survey feedback; they use a look-up table to text participants a digital giftcard. 

You can learn more about look-up tables and how to program them in our help documentation:

If you’d like to jump directly to the gift card feature, go here: 

Conversational Design

As mentioned, thinking through the design of your flow from multiple perspectives is a critical step to getting flow right for both you as the sender and the recipient. 

Here are some of CCL’s core principles of conversational design: 

  • Tell users explicitly what you want from them.  If you want them to rate their service experience on a scale of 1-10, use language like “Reply with a number.”

  • Consider your audience.  If you’re working with low-literacy populations, aim for a third grade reading level. (There are online services that can help you!)

  • Prioritize your flow so that the most relevant information comes first. If you’re asking survey questions, put your most important questions first.  


Where to find more resources:

  • Check out our robust help site (and use the search bar!)

  • Reach out to us directly via email, for personalized troubleshooting.