I get it! Scripted responses and dialog have their place. For one, they save a lot of time. Also, they show you are prepared to meet the needs of your customers in a timely manner. I have used them quite a bit over the years. However, what I am not a fan of is script that is read verbatim, as part of the service experience.
I recently attempted to pay my credit card online and was held hostage to the never ending series of required script which, was of no value to me as a customer. All I wanted to do was pay my bill. I will take full responsibility for waiting until the last possible minute, and for calling. However, the mobile app was not working at the time.
Because I work in the contact center, I am extremely patient when I am speaking to a customer service representative. I am aware they do not make the policies or procedures. However, in this instance, I was in a hurry, and began losing my patience. I demanded that we “Skip the script”, and move forward with my payment. The agent responded, “Mr. Hawkins, I am required to read this before we can move forward. I do apologize.”
At that moment, I lost every ounce of cool. My chill had abandoned me. I snapped and shouted, "This script has nothing to do with why I called! It's a forced survey!" She apologized repeatedly until I became embarrassed. At myself, for losing my temper, and for her. I imagine this was not the first time someone responded to her in the same manner. Needless to say, this has to take a toll being on the receiving end.
This ordeal is not uncommon. Too often, scripts get in the way of providing a swift resolution, resulting in customer frustration. In my frustration, I decided to reach out to a my friend Leslie O'Flahavan. In part, to get her perspective, but also to calm myself down after an emotionally draining experience. Leslie has provided writing courses and training for every level of contact center staff. In my opinion, she's the expert! Leslie was kind enough to provide some excellent advise on the matter:
- Customer service agents who are forced to adhere to scripts—on the phone, via email or live chat, or in social media— are prisoners, not customer service professionals! Managers should supply agents with scripts or templates, but they should allow and require agents to customize their responses.
- Scripts or canned responses are essential to efficiency in the contact center, but these pre-written responses should always be used and the basis for the response, not the entire response itself. They should always be customized.
- For phone agents, the best scripts are talking-points style scripts, not fully-written-out-read-verbatim scripts. Talking points scripts offer agents 3 – 5 points to cover when they speak with a customer, but agents should always use an on-brand, natural, personal speaking style.
- If agents are required to cover a set number of topics, for safety reasons or legal reasons, they should be allowed to cover the topics in the order that works best during the call and in the amount of detail that the customer requires.
- When agents use canned responses in written customer service (email, chat, social, or SMS), they should always blend free text writing with templates writing. When they do this well, customers can't even tell which part of the response is the template. The problem doesn't lie with the template itself; it lies with how the template is used.
So, what should contact center leaders do? For starters, review your script. Be certain it doesn't take away the human factor. Also, empower agents to make real time decision. Who better to know how to steer a conversation, than the one engaged in the conversation. Finally, any scripts that impede excellent service, should be taken out of service. Do this for the the sake of your customers, and your agents.
Currently the Manager of Support and Product at Framework Homeownership, I have over 15 years of progressive call center leadership and experience in the public, private and government sectors.
I have led or consulted contact centers of various sizes across numerous industries and environments including sales, BPO, and SaaS to name a few. Additionally, I’ve implemented new technology and products, while maintaining award-winning contact centers.
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