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Don’t Cling to a Lifeless Script for Calls

This article first appeared on the blog for Edify.

 “I’m so happy I was able to help you today, ma’am!” Well, actually, you didn’t.

Here’s the backstory. When my husband and I ordered a new microwave recently, the shipment was unexpectedly delayed. So, Best Buy’s customer service department called to reschedule. But when we asked, “Can we get it any sooner? Or can we just pick it up ourselves?” the agent was clearly flustered. These questions obviously weren't in the script. Nevertheless, she wrapped up the call with the standard message although she really wasn’t able to help us. It simply didn’t fit the situation nor did it address our questions.

Why Give a Perfectly Good Agent a Stale Script?

Agents say the darndest things. That’s where scripts can help. Call Centre Helper has a page dedicated to the “Funniest Call Center Stories”; one contributor tells a story of a reservation agent in Texas who was helping a customer book a hotel room in Europe. Quoting the rate, she said “And, sir, the room rate is 400 Frankfurters per night.” A short silence followed, and the customer said, “You mean we gotta pay them fellas in WEENIES?”

That scenario alone explains how agent scripting solutions entered the suite of contact center technology -- eliminating these types of (albeit funny) stories and just simply providing better customer service.

Scripting became commonplace, with a goal of eliminating embarrassing out-of-the-box responses and weenie stories that plagued even the best of contact centers. Contact center managers and supervisors wrote scripts to guide agents through every step of the customer interaction. Agents sighed. Then complied.

Then Personalized Customer Service Came Along

As markets became more competitive, companies came to realize one of the few remaining ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors is by delivering great customer experiences. Some contact centers relaxed their focus on traditional measures, such as average talk time, knowing that sometimes customers need to be nurtured rather than hurried.

Personalized service became the mantra.

In his 2020 Achieving Customer Amazement study, renowned customer service expert, author, and keynote speaker Shep Hyken says, “Simply being treated as a valued human being ranked as the most popular attribute of exceptional customer service.” This translates to personalized service being the golden ticket to brand stardom.

We all know from our own experiences that every permutation of inquiry can’t be scripted. Therein lies the conundrum agents face every day -- trying to follow script guidelines while customers toss unexpected questions at them.

Does That Mean Scripts Are a Relic of the Past?

  • Undeniably, there are risks associated with scripts. They can sound too… scripted. Common complaints include:
  • They make agents sound like robots.
  • Agent responses are unnecessarily confined.
  • Rigid adherence requirements eliminate personalized responses.
  • Agents don’t like using them.
  • It’s difficult to provide appropriate guidance for every situation.

How Scripts Can Enhance, Not Detract

While admittedly there are inherent challenges, scripts have significant benefits. They can:

  • Ensure agents adhere to legal requirements, such as telling customers who purchase certain products and services that they have x days to change their mind.
  • Help agents get to the point quickly and efficiently. All of us want companies to respect our time.
  • Provide talking points for sticky situations.

All of these reasons, and many more, mean companies shouldn’t automatically ditch their scripts. However, it’s time to move away from traditional step-by-step guides. Avoid the depersonalization that can accompany rigid script adherence by choosing dynamic scripting. With dynamic scripting, agents’ scripts are tailored to varying inputs and outcomes. For example, if a customer needs technical support, agents can be guided to ask a series of questions, in a specific order, to assist in diagnosing the problem. Based on the response to each question, the script accordingly advises the agent on follow-up dialogue.

Lastly, remember to give agents flexibility in handling thorny customer issues. Empower them to issue a refund, send a gift certificate, or otherwise make the situation “right” for the customer. Your top-tier agents should feel empowered to go off script when such a situation arises.