Call center scripts cartoon Saying that call center scripts are harming your company would be like saying that smoking is bad for your health.

Everyone knows it and yet people keep on smoking and call centers keep on using scripts.

The problem here is that scripts, harm people who didn’t willingly choose to use them: your call center employees (very much like second-hand smoking harms people around smokers).

We’re sure there’s a lot of money invested in designing great scripts that are built to convert more callers into customers.

On paper scripts aren’t that bad. Problems start to appear when they are put into practice.

Want to know why?

Because you can’t script 1 side of a conversation only. Ask any actor, they’re either learning fully scripted dialogs or all improvising.

By putting a script into your employee’s hands, you are not doing them a favor, you are creating a gigantic burden for them to carry. I’m not kidding! Did you ever think that you were making their job a lot more difficult?

Just think of it this way: most people know how to have a conversation. Especially when the job is cut out for them and the customer is starting the conversation bringing a precise topic with him.

With that in mind, good training should focus on:

– passing on technical knowledge about your company to employees so they become experts and are able to answer questions about your brand better than most customers would.

– language (not only for foreigners but to remind reps what language style they should use)

– communication: teach your reps how to communicate better (this includes learning how to really listen, how to handle angry customers…)

You can of course use scripts to conduct those trainings. In that case they can be a great way to illustrate your words and give your agents some keys to a successful interaction.

Unfortunatelly that’s not how most companies use scripts.

Here are the main things that turn companies into scripting bullies:

Going off script can get employees in serious trouble (they can lose their job, or have money deducted from their pay…)

The number 1 reason why employees actually stick to nonsense scripts isn’t because they find them useful.

It’s because it could get them fired if they didn’t!

Next time you talk to a robot-like employee, just take a minute to think that his call is being recorded and that a step away from the precious script could mean serious trouble for him. Believe me, employees do not enjoy reading scripts a lot more than you like hearing them.

A Best Buy employee complained few years ago about the fact that failure to adhere to the script could result in termination of employment. Guess what Best Buy replied?

„As is common with large corporations such as Best Buy, we do have guidelines for our customer support teams to follow to ensure that our customers receive the highest quality care,” „We have not heard from any of our customers (directly) on this topic and if we did we would of course address each concern individually.”

– taken from: Best Buy Customer Service Agents Sticks the Script

They are not denying. As long as customers don’t complain too much about it, they will just keep scripting and saving money.

But what about employees complaints? Apparently it’s not that important. The customer is the one paying the bills after all.

Well that’s where companies like Best Buy are wrong. Hiring new employees costs a lot of money and chances are most call centers experience a high turnover. Did you know that it takes about 6 months for employees to reach their break-even point (the point where you actually got back the money you invested in them and they start being an asset).

Let’s go back to Best Buy for a second. Do they actually hope to keep employees longer by threatening to fire them if they step off their script?

No one wants to loose their job, especially when you need the money to survive. So employees just comply with the rules, complain about them during breaks and go on doing what they’re told because why would they fight the system anyway? I mean, no one makes them feel like their opinion matter. On the contrary, everything is made to make them feel like they DON’T matter and are not so hard to replace.

Scripts make it clear to employees that they are not skilled (clever) enough to handle the conversation with their own words

Having a conversation is something pretty basic. I believe we all feel like we can handle that task. More than that, we love connecting with others. It’s in our nature (we are social creatures after all).

When you think about working in customer service, you think about helping people, being a good communicator… You don’t think about reading a script to people that are trying to talk to you.

It seems like director and managers forgot what customer service is all about. You’d think it’s mostly about having strong soft skills like empathy, self-control, be sociable… But instead most job offers for customer service reps ask for a bunch of hard skills like computer knowledge, knowledge of the system and products or ability to type fast. Unlike soft skills, those can all be taught pretty fast.

job offer customer service rep

Example of a job offer for a customer service representative

In other words, there’s really no way to shine because of who you are in customer service. Companies are making it perfectly clear that your social skills are not their priority. Basically customer service reps are not here to have nice conversations with customers, they’re here to have as many conversations as possible.

The honest job offer for a customer service front line position should look a bit like that:

Skills and Qualifications:

– Outstanding memorizing skills

– Can type and speak faster than average

– Ability to quickly locate useful information in an ocean of words

– Wilingness to work long hours for little results

– Works well under pressure and don’t mind getting verbally abused

– Can easily put their thoughts and considerations aside

– Ability to think in scripted words is a big advantage

– Talent for blindly following rules

Let’s be honest, most call centers don’t really value employees’ skills, and most people don’t really see call center jobs as rewarding. The call center industry is stuck in a vicious circle and won’t evolve unless companies change their way of thinking and start value employees a bit more.

Reps are the ones getting yelled at for scripts they didn’t write and didn’t choose to read

Let’s take a second to think about how sick that is. Someone writes a script (probably because someone else asked them), passes it on to the customer service manager who then makes sure representatives read it.

Reps are basically forced to read someone else’s sloppy work and take the blame for it. Why are companies trusting managers who never worked with customers more than the employees who handle customers requests every day?

It’s like if a theatre company asked their accountant to write a play and then forced actors to act it as if they were improvising the whole thing. Therefore making them look like bad actors in the eyes of the audience when the system is really to blame for having the accountant write the play.

Customer service scripts work the same, except you are making your reps look like stupid, lifeless people. No wonder most call centers are seeing such a high turnover. People have no reason to stay since they are not payed well AND companies do nothing to make them proud of their job. It might seem easy to just learn a script and roll with it. However it involves pretending to be someone you are not, someone that’s a lot worse than you really are. And no one loves that.

There has to be a little room for personalization in everything we do. Just to make us feel like we are bringing something to the table.

How could call centers manage their employees a little better?

There’s a really long way to go but some companies are already there.

I recently chatted with Zappos and it is clear that their customer service representatives are part of the family. The chat I had felt 100% genuine and it allowed me to connect with the person on the other side of the computer. But one thing that stroke me with Zappos is that employees are encouraged to go “off-script” (not that they actually use scripts). What I mean is that the employee I spoke to started to tell me about her trip to Paris and we exhanged few thoughts about the city.

Zappos core values

Zappos core values

This might seem highly unprofessional but it was the best customer experience I ever had.

Why? Because Zappos gives their employees the opportunity to really connect with customers. In that particular case, the rep couldn’t solve my problem but I still left happier than ever, and I can promise you I will be a loyal Zappos customer if they ever start shipping to Europe.

Here’s what everyone can learn from Zappos:

– Customer service employees are an important part of the company and are treated as such. Zappos CEO even regularly answers the phones himself!

– They are trained to be friendly and make the customer happy, not to read a script.

– They are allowed to give their personal opinion and that’s how they connect with customers

– They are regularly rewarded and are given lots of reasons to be proud of their job

No one said it was easy to provide excellent customer service but it’s attainable. It just requires a big change in the way companies think. It’s time they see the value of good customer care and start building an organisation around it instead of sending the department away to save money.

How good is it to attract and convert a lead into a customer if you’re then going to treat them like they are worthless. Just remember that the way you make your employees feel will reflect on how they treat customers and will impact your business!