Five tips for scripting in the call center (besides “don’t”)

Spoken | March 22, 2011

Robot lock When to script and when to trust your agents

To script or not to script in the call center: it’s a deceptively complicated question. Callers don’t enjoy trying to connect with robo-agents who can’t deviate from a script, but trainers can find scripting certain types of call segments to be beneficial for getting new agents up to speed and for training old agents in new protocols.

As with most questions, the solution lies somewhere in between. Scripts in and of themselves aren’t necessarily detrimental to a friendly customer service experience, but used incorrectly, they certainly can be. A few months ago, I posed the question of scripting in my favorite LinkedIn call center group to see what the wisdom of the crowds would bring forth. Four months after posting the query, the discussion is still going strong, with a depth of commentary that does the industry experts in the group credit.

From the lively discussion, five key tips to strategizing scripting in the call center:

  1. Use best practices, not scripts. David Jaffe, manager of a call center in Australia, commented, “We find that people need to distinguish between ‘scripting’ and definition of what we call ‘best practice.’ Best practices, when we create them, define the best way to handle each call type (and apply equally in face to face, email or admin) but give the agent some latitude in how the language and manner in which they do so. This aligns with the previous general conclusion, which was that a kind of call center “playbook,” based on guidelines rather than specific scripts, is the most useful tool and allows for the most agent freedom while respecting their natural talents.
  2. Consider appropriateness to the level of support provided. As Sam Smilie noted, “the higher the level of support, the less the usability of the scripts.” If you absolutely must script, it may be more appropriate for a Tier 1 call than for a Tier 3 call, for example. As he points out, “As a customer is escalated further up the support track, they get increasingly more knowledgeable, hopefully, agents. The conversations also tend to get more specialized, and it becomes increasingly difficult to write efficient, and meaningful, scripts.” If you must script, recognize it will be most useful at the Tier 1 level.
  3. Use sparingly for new agent training. For call centers with high turnover rates, having predefined scripts can provide a training shortcut to get new agents up and running faster. Used sparingly and as limited training tools to give guidance for the first few weeks, scripts can set new agents at ease. However, the best agent training is that which empowers agents to express their personality and use their own native intelligence to solve customer issues.
  4. Use technology instead. Richard Snow points out that several vendors have “smart desktop” technology that can advise agents on what to do next; Spoken Communications has “whisper” technology that can whisper in the ear of the agent and give guidance. In some cases, technology can supplant the need for scripting.
  5. Hire good agents, and you won’t need scripts. Nick Kossovan hit it out of the park with a no-nonsense conclusion: if you hire good agents and good managers and provide them with good training tools, you won’t need a script; you’ll only need to stay out of their way. His wry assertion: “If you feel your agents need to follow a script, chances are you have the wrong agents populating your call center.” Can I get an “amen”? If you hire intelligent and trustworthy agents and train them properly, it is unlikely you would even consider a standardized script for most situations. Focus on hiring quality agents and train for interpersonal skills rather than rote learning, and the need for scripting will be very low.

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