Scripts have a bad rap in the customer service field. No matter the format — speeches, blog posts, chats — it is common to hear customer service professionals say things such as…
And they are right…
For the most part.
Who doesn’t hate having a semi-skilled customer automaton robotically read a canned customer service script? We all do!
The problem with most scripts is they are used as a final solution, a way to ensure that customer facing professionals (CFP’s) say the right things at the right time.
In reality, the results are much different. Robotic adherence to scripts usually results in CFP’s saying the right thing but at the wrong time and in the wrong way.
However, blaming scripts is misguided and is akin to blaming a hammer for being used to bludgeon someone. The tool is never at fault, only the person using it.
Much of the negation of scripts comes from what appears to be a rather fantastical belief that all employees are experienced operators with a toolkit of customer service skills who have had time to be thoroughly trained before ever coming into contact with a customer.
In most companies, that is not what happens.
In many companies and industries, much of retail and food service for example, employees are often just entering the workforce. Many do not have business experience and, even worse, have often acquired bad habits in the little bit of work experience they have had.
Let’s take the example of Julie.
Julie is an early Twenties, high school graduate, who is working her way through her associates degree. Her previous work experience was as a lifeguard in high school and then as a salesperson at a shoe store in the mall.
She learned very little in the way of transferable skills as a lifeguard. At the mall, she learned basic sales skills and how to text her friends with one hand under the counter without a client noticing.
You just hired Julie, because out of the hundreds of applications you received and the dozens of interviews you performed, she was one of the few people who showed any real promise and who was willing to work the hours you needed to cover.
Now, you have to decide how to train Julie, because she literally knows next to nothing about your product, your systems, or business in general. Here are some options:
1. You can send her to Retail University, the plush, fully-staffed campus you setup for the 7-10 part-time employees you hire each year. Oh yeah, you don’t have one of those.
2. You can keep Julie off the schedule and pull another employee off the schedule to train her for 3 months straight. You can afford that, right? Or…
3. You can throw her on the schedule, try to squeeze a few days of training in prior to her first shift, and assign a senior associate to train her on the job, while you deal with auditors, insurance claims, and the employee who just quit, leaving you to look for yet another Julie.
Most likely, Julie’s getting thrown to the wolves. The best thing you can do is give her the most efficient tools and most effective training that your budget and operations allow.
Enter the dreaded script.
So, here is when customer service scripts work: Scripts work when you need to equip team members with the proper language and the proper information to handle specific interactions with customers — and they do not have the skill set necessary to do so without a script.
The key distinction to bear in mind is that…
Customer service scripts are a starting point, never a finishing point.
Customer service scripts help give those who are without developed skills or specific knowledge a way to use better language in an orderly presentation with correct information.
If well prepared and properly tested, scripts can actually help team members feel more comfortable, not less. The scripts can provide a support mechanism for team members who are unsure of themselves.
If you have hired well and provided adequate training and support, the script will not be a crutch but a guide that a team member can milk for its takeaways and make into something personal and genuine.
Scripts can work if you work them.
So, do you think scripts have a place in business, or are they always a bad thing?
By Adam Toporek. Adam Toporek is an internationally recognized customer service expert, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. He is the author of Be Your Customer's Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines (2015), as well as the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog and co-host of the Crack the Customer Code podcast.