The Process and the Script in Customer Service: Should You Always Hold on to Them?

6 min read
May 12, 2017
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Customer service script

Recently Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, released his annual letter to shareholders. It's a must-read missive, filled with pearls of management philosophy and leadership lessons from the guy who created the $430 billion juggernaut.

Bezos is focused on how to prevent a successful business from becoming a lumbering organization that eventually succumbs to “stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death.”

He believes that a company can avoid this fate by making a concerted effort to never
become a slave of established processes
, no matter how rooted they are in a company’s culture.

He said that, in which the process becomes the proxy for the result you want, it can happen easily. People stop looking at the outcomes and just make sure that they’re doing the process right. And that behavior is wrong for all the projects and, as a result, a company’s future.

It's not that rare to hear a junior leader defend a bad outcome with something like, 'Well, we followed the process.' A more experienced leader will use it as an opportunity to investigate and improve the process. The process is not the thing. It's always worth asking, do we own the process or does the process own us?

Same as the process in your company, as well as the scripts in customer service, they both should be no more than just guidelines which you follow and react the moment something is not working correctly. People don’t like when things get too hot, and that includes your customers in particular.

Do you always have to follow the script?

The process that a company follows usually has a transposition in a way a customer service is handled. If a CEO likes the processes, bureaucracy and control, then leaders have to hold on to that and, most likely, they will also require for the script to be followed by their customer service reps.

That’s too many rules for my taste.

In this kind of controlled environment, reps mainly ask the questions and reply with the use of answers approved by the management – the conversation goes in a particular schema. When they follow the rules so much, there’s no place for real emotions and a conversation tends to look unnatural. And let me tell you, customers can and will feel it.

An experimental video analysis “Can customers detect script usage in service encounters” suggests that customers can tell the difference between varying levels of script usage, in both standardized and customized encounters.

Participants were shown videos of highly scripted, moderately scripted, and improvised interactions between an employee and a customer checking into a hotel (a standardized service experience), and a customer seeking recommendations from a concierge (a customized service experience). The study found that the participants could detect all levels of scripting in both situations.

“Even if the differences are subtle, they could spot the differences,” said Professor Don Wardell, a study author.

Based on this research, a study “Scripting the Service Encounter: A Customers’ Perspective of Quality” found that customers don’t mind scripting in their service experiences, as long as it’s used in a standardized interaction. However, when they’re seeking answers for complex issues or non-standard information, they prefer an improvised conversation based on the requirements of their individual case.

What it means for you is that customers expect natural and honest conversations.
They want to feel that the person on the other side of the computer cares about their request and they’re treated as individuals, not like many other people before them.

How to avoid scripted conversations?

Imagine that there’s a customer reaching out to you for help because his Internet is not working. If you ever faced this issue, you might probably relate to the anger he felt.

He’s already agitated, but he gets really angry when you ask, for a third time, if he already turned his router off, just because you need to cross this off your list of questions to ask.

Think about it. Would it be so bad if you said: “Ok, so I understand you turned the thing off already? Ok, let’s see what we can do next.”

How to avoid scripted talk on chat?

Following a stiff script is one thing. The other one is when reps are not listening and are not creative when fixing the issues at all. One of the mistakes that a rep can make is the overuse of canned responses during a chat.

Canned responses are ready-made for questions that happen regularly, so reps don’t have to write them over and over again. It’s a really nice feature that helps live chat operators become more efficient and effective. But, like with many features that make our lives easier, we need to use them wisely.

Since we know that customers can sense unnatural approach to providing service and that they want to be treated personally, you need to create canned responses reasonably and use them for standard questions.

For example: “How long do I have to wait for shipment?” You answer can be: “The typical time of waiting for a package is 3-5 business day.”

Although, when a customer comes to you with a complex issue, and asks: “Hi, I ordered a package then I changed my order after one day and now I don’t know when the package supposed to get here.” Instead of answering with a canned response above that “The typical time of waiting…,” you can dig a little and try to come up with a solution.

“Ok, let me investigate this. You ordered your package 4 days ago, it supposed to be at your house by tomorrow, but let me check where your package is at the moment.”

The time of solving the case shouldn’t matter. The customer's satisfaction after finished chat is what you should focus on.

How to know when you use too much of prepared answers?

The first thing that you should check out is your customer satisfaction. How customers rate your after a chat? You can use post-chat survey with a few questions to gather feedback from customers and learn where you should improve.

The other thing is your personal feeling. The best if customer service reps could have a special radar for detecting customers’ negative emotions. This radar could turn on whenever a customer gets irritate.

Like when they say: “I already told you,” “Let me ask again,” “I don’t think you understand.” These are the moments when you should stop and rewind your conversation with a customer, because maybe you might have missed something because maybe you weren’t listening enough.

So try to understand and recognize what a customer feels and what do they need. Thanks to it you can react just before they outburst their emotions on you.

Script and improvisation – find the right balance

Having standards and procedures have many benefits in terms of quality control and developing a consistent customer experience. Yet, companies need assess the value of consistency versus the advantages of allowing or promoting a more human, personalized customer service conversation.

By achieving the right balance, companies can provide an outstanding service experience for each and every customer. Good luck with that!

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