9 Customer Service Role Plays


A photo of a movie clapper board

We highlight some good examples of customer service scenarios to role plays, before investigating how to get the most out of contact centre role plays.

What are Customer Service Role Plays?

Role playing is a customer service exercise where agents practice how to deal with certain customer interactions, with a fellow agent or team leader/coach acting as the customer.

Agents can practice handling calls in a safe, learning environment…

By role playing with colleagues, agents can practice handling calls in a safe, learning environment – making it much easier when it comes to putting new skills into practice in the real world.

Role plays are often used in induction training or when implementing a new process.

9 Customer Service Role Play Examples

While it is great to role play new situations – as part of both induction and continuous training – there are a few more situations, which can be really useful to role play.

These include:

1. Scenarios in Which Agents Ask for Help With

Coaching is always more valuable when the agent is aware of the need to improve. So having agents come up with the scenarios in which they would like to role play is a great way to either:

  • Help them improve in areas in which they are struggling
  • Build their confidence and reassure them that they are doing the right things

“Sometimes role playing seems ‘false’ to agents, so they use this time as an opportunity to have a laugh. But if you’re role playing issues that are pertinent to them, the exercise will be more likely to be taken seriously,” says Caroline Cooper, Founder of Naturally Loyal.

2. Scenarios Where the Agent Feels as Though the Customer is in the Wrong

Some of the most difficult situations for an agent to deal with are those in which they believe the customer to be wrong, as it can be hard to know how to direct the call in these cases.

By role playing these scenarios through with agents, where they play the customer and another you, as the supervisor, play the agent – they can learn from how you navigate these tricky contacts.

3. Common Contact Reasons with Low CSAT/Quality Scores

Many contact centres highlight their most common customer contact reasons to improve upon, as if they get these right, they please a high percentage of the customers that call-in.

So, by taking a look a Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) scores, quality scores and maybe even First Contact Resolution (FCR) rates across each of your top contacts, you can prioritise a number of contact reasons to improve.

Explain to agents, before they role play, why these interactions are so significant to business results…

Explain to agents, before they role play, why these interactions are so significant to business results, so they buy-into the importance of role playing this contact reason and sharing best practices with one another.

4. Vulnerable Customer Scenarios

Agents are often left in really difficult situations where they are dealing with vulnerable customer situations where the customer:

  • May not be able to pay their bills
  • Asks unrelated questions or makes irrelevant points
  • Doesn’t talk much and takes a long time to answer questions
  • Says things like: “My partner would always handle these things for me”
  • Struggles to keep up with the conversation – maybe responding “yes” to each of your questions.

Agents need guidance in how to deal with these customers, as they may not only feel helpless, but the scenario might cause them stress that can last for hours, or maybe even days.

So, do some coaching first – giving the basic advice for handling different kinds of vulnerable customer – then role play various situations, to give invaluable guidance for agents for when they come across vulnerable customers in desperate situations.

For insights into how best to serve vulnerable customers, read our article: Dealing With Vulnerable Customers

5. Scenarios Where the Customer is in a Rush

Customers can often grow frustrated when you cannot give them an immediate answer to what they imagine to be a simple query.

These contacts are common in contact centres, specifically at certain points of the day when the customer is in a rush to get to work or calls-in just before the contact centre closes.

Role playing these scenarios, in an environment where agents feel comfortable in trying-out a more direct style of conversation and new techniques such as signposting – can be really helpful in speeding-up the conversation, for the customer’s benefit.

6. Scenarios Where the Customer Just Can’t Stop Talking

While friendly, dealing with calls from talkative customers can be tricky, as they can keep the agent on the phone for much longer than they need to be.

Sometimes the customer is overly talkative because they don’t feel listened to. Other times, it is just who they are and, if they had their way, they’d keep the agent on the phone for hours.

Agents first need to ensure that the customer feels listened to…

To deal with these customers, agents first need to ensure that the customer feels listened to, which starts by using appropriate acknowledgement statements. But, what if the customer keeps talking…

This role play can turn into quite a fun activity – and an important one – in ensuring talkative customers feel properly attended to, while helping to safely lower handling times.

7. Scenarios Where the Customer Can’t Make a Decision

Every now and then, an agent has to deal with a customer who can’t make a decision, as they either ask lots of questions or keep flip-flopping between different options.

Handling these customers can be frustrating and go-on much longer than they need to. It is up to the agent to take control of the contact at this point – and this can be a tricky thing to do – but it’s an important skill to learn.

Role play the situation with agents and see if they take charge with effective questioning – i.e. asking the customer: “What is it you are looking for?” Or: “What features are important to you?” They can then match the right solution to the customer.

8. Scenarios Where the Customer is Overly Demanding

In the age of incredible service from the likes of Amazon, customers more often have unrealistic expectations and demand something that you cannot deliver.

Highlight such scenarios when quality monitoring and role play some of those customer requests.

What you are looking for here is that the agent doesn’t find themselves in an awkward standoff position and can acknowledge the customer properly, highlight another option and use positive words to promote that option.

9. Scenarios Where There is a Process Failure

What are your most common process failures? These scenarios are important to cover, as they often lead to angry customers, who have the potential to emotionally hurt your agents.

These scenarios are important to cover, as they often lead to angry customers…

Look over your customer complaints. Which broken processes are leading to volatile customers calling-in and having uncomfortable situations with agents.

Of course, we – in management – should look to fix these process failures first-and-foremost. If that is not possible, however, coach employees how to deal with these complaints and roleplay that approach to further engrain the training.

For lots of great advice for handling angry customer contacts, read our article: Dealing with Angry Customers

6 Golden Rules for Role Plays

Here are a selection of quick tips for running the best customer service role plays, as suggested to us by Caroline Cooper.

1. Split Teams into Groups of Three

The pitfalls of role plays is that people either don’t take them seriously or they get incredibly nervous about it. So don’t have two people role play in front of a group.

Instead, split people into groups of three. Have someone playing the agent, another playing the customer and a third person acting as an observer.

The observer – as well as the customer – is there to highlight what the agent did well and suggest what they may have done differently.

2. Talk Through the Scenario First

A big part of customer service role playing is not necessarily how the agent says something but knowing what they say in the first place.

Ask the group; in a perfect world, how would you handle this?

So, give each group the time to talk through the scenario and ask the group; in a perfect world, how would you handle this?

While this question is quite broad, you can also ask more specific questions like:

  • What would you first say to the customer?
  • What sorts of things would you offer that customer?
  • How might you put the customer at ease?

Talking about the theory first enables you to break down the topic into manageable chunks and gain input from other people. Otherwise, you may begin the role play with agents not knowing what they are going to say, which makes them feel uncomfortable.

3. Make Sure the Struggling Agent Plays the Customer

With groups of three, get the agent who says they are least confident in handling the matter to be the customer, as this gives them a better idea of what it feels like to be on the other end of the line.

Perhaps an even greater benefit is that the struggling agent can see how the person playing the agent navigates the contact and how they can learn from them.

4. Have the Person Playing the Agent Give Feedback First

At the end of the role play, the group of three will discuss what happened, giving positive feedback and sharing ideas for possible improvement. It’s therefore best to get an agent to assess their own performance first, before their group – potentially – dive in for the kill.

Get an agent to assess their own performance first, before their group – potentially – dive in for the kill.

Nine times out of ten, the agent knows where they have gone wrong and it becomes a lot more palatable when they share what they felt went wrong, as opposed to somebody else then saying: “That bit didn’t work.” The agent will likely know that already.

This leads onto the next point…

5. Stress That It’s Okay If Things Don’t Go Well

Make sure that you create an environment where agents understand that it’s okay if they mess-up, as it’s not a real customer.

There are lots of different things that can potentially go wrong in a role play of a customer conversation. However, if you tell agents to just focus on area of improvement to start with, it then becomes a lot easier for the agent to take on board, rather giving them than three or four learning opportunities.

6. Get the Customer and Observer to Give Specific Feedback

Often, when you ask the agents playing the customer or observer for their feedback, they will say: “I think they did a good job.” But the feedback needs to be more specific to be effective.

To help them give more valuable feedback, give agents a few specific things to look out for before the role play begins.

For example, to the agent playing the customer, you could ask them to make a note of how they feel during the role play. Then ask them; what was it that they said to make you feel that way?

A thumbnail picture of Caroline Cooper

Caroline Cooper

If the role play has gone really well, you can identify the key ingredients that made-up the call and share those as best practices to replicate in the future.

When it doesn’t go so well, the agent playing the agent knows what it is specifically that has maybe jarred with the customer or didn’t come across very positively and can get support in what they can do differently to create a more positive customer experience.

For more on how to give constructive feedback to an agent, read our article: How to Give Feedback to an Employee… Without Upsetting Them

Extra Benefits of Running These Role Plays

The key benefit of role playing is to give agents the chance to have a difficult customer conversations, in a safe environment. However, there are lots more benefits to role playing than just that.

So, let’s finish of this article by highlighting how else role playing can improve your customer service:

  • They help to build agent confidence that, in turn, creates customer trust
  • They help to share best practice from one agent to another
  • They help agents consider what matters most from the customer’s perspective

Thanks to Caroline Cooper for her help in putting this article together. For more great insights from Caroline, check out our articles:

Published On: 30th Apr 2012 - Last modified: 27th Nov 2020
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