Call scripting is used in around half of all contact centres. Get it right and nobody would know that their call is being guided. Get it wrong and the call can sound stilted.
So how can we develop the best script for a contact centre? We asked two experts for their advice.
Don’t have a straight line flow
The best script must consider the customer’s journey; it’s not the customer’s job to adapt to your systems or processes. This is important if you want to build empathy.
Your script should allow for an appropriate response to any given customer interaction and prompt the call centre communicator to stay consistent with the company message.
Road map the customer journey
Design a matrix of customer needs against solutions you are offering to map the foundation of the intended customer interaction and make sure every iteration is covered.
- In my experience some flip-chart paper and blu-tack is ideal here because it’s quick and visual.
- Focus efforts on the big box (macro) processes here rather than the detail of the script. That gets added later.
Role play the script
Put yourself in the customer’s shoes when role playing the script or, even better, ask someone unconnected to your business to be a guinea pig. (I’ve always found my children or mum to give the best, brutally honest, feedback!)
Always provide time for full script rehearsal. Do this over a period of a few days so that the script has a chance to settle in everyone’s mind and sound natural.
It’s spoken English
Remember you are trying to produce great spoken English, not great written English. They are quite different in style and impact.
Write your first draft rapidly. Include everything. Then critique it. Look out for any long paragraphs that would promote mechanical reading. Do this by pruning to just essential ideas. Omit irrelevant information. Experiment with saying each idea in the shortest sentence without losing meaning.
Once it is slimmed down, read the whole back to check that the continuity and logical flow of ideas still works.
Define call-to-action points
When developing a sales script, remember to define call-to-action points. Let the customer know throughout the script what they can actually respond to and therefore buy from you.
In terms of detail, are there different versions you need to produce based on the communicator’s expertise? In which case produce the most detailed version first and then edit that for a ‘guidelines only’ version for more experienced staff.
Improve the script over time
Don’t worry about getting the ‘perfect script’ from day 1 because you always get good feedback from your staff and with modern scripting tools you can amend flows and content very quickly.
- A major benefit of including staff feedback is that they then become engaged with improving the customer and agent journey; this will significantly improve customer and employee satisfaction (C-Sat & E-Sat) bench-marks.
Get the language right
Check that the script language is easy to pronounce given the accents of those using it. Read it out loud to test for tongue twisters, over complex ideas, unclear instructions or requests.
Avoid a long greeting or closing. Make greetings short and simple – identify the brand, yourself and get down to business.
Make it quick to read
Use font, colour, graphics and layout options to create emphasis, suggestion and importance to the user.
Write the script in short paragraphs that can be read quickly. Include bullet points so that the call agent can hit all the important facts without reading a word-for-word response to the customer.
“Hello” or “Good morning” – which is best?
If you are providing offshore services, it’s best to greet customers with a simple hello rather than try and anticipate the time of day.
Use test groups
If you have the time and opportunity, run two test groups – one using the script, one without it. Measure call outcomes to identify if and how the scripted approach is helping.
Provide feedback capability in the script between those using it and the designers for rapid turn around of new versions.
Build in FAQs
Focus on identifying and refreshing the FAQ to identify and answer top questions. Do this frequently and thoroughly at the start of campaigns to boost overall effectiveness.
If you use call recording, listen to some actual interactions using the script to identify improvements based on the way the customers have responded.
Carl Adkins is Managing Director of Infinity CCS (www.infinityccs.com )
Developing the correct script is one the toughest challenges facing call centres today. A script, either good or bad, impacts on every element of a business.
Take a step back…
You need to consider the basic flow and set the objectives of a script before any questions can begin to be formulated. The best way to do this is to break it down into five areas:
- Objectives – the main objective of the script has to be decided on before anything else can be considered. Key factors to bear in mind include: who will the agent be talking to? What is likely to be their thought pattern when making or receiving a call? What is the key outcome required? (i.e. to generate fundraising, to raise awareness, to develop future selling opportunities?)
- “Data in” – the data feeding into the script should always be available in a user-friendly format. Determine how much information is needed by the agent, as well as what data might need to be reported on.
- Agent ability – you must consider the skills that the agents involved in your project are going to have. Are they going to be new users who may need a lot of guidance? Or experienced sellers who will be able to tackle the task in hand with no additional information needed? If it is the latter then the script is likely to be more straightforward, with fewer operator notes.
- Agent information – what do your agents need to know? Working through a script is a challenging experience; reading, talking and listening all at the same time. A well-thought out script will aid this process, and allow the agent to focus on the most important communication or selling techniques.
- “Data out” – which reports and/or analysis will be required from the outcome of the script? These should be determined from both a company and a customer viewpoint.
A script should act as a guideline, NOT as a fixed rule
It is crucial to remember that although you want your agents to follow the script in front of them, leaving room for a little personalisation and familiarity (if appropriate) will go a long way. Scripting often receives negative press because of the apparent potential to turn agents into ‘call centre robots’. However, if a script is properly structured and the key components implemented, there is no reason to expect your agents to sound exactly alike. Improving morale will also come as agents believe that they are seen as people, rather than puppets.
Use auto-cognitive tricks
A bright, eye-catching script will keep your agents focused and prevent their attention from wandering. As your agents are likely to be working for multiple clients and companies, it is a good idea to have each company’s corporate colours and signature trademarks on their individual scripts.
This will help the agents to relate to the product or service being offered, particularly if the agents are interchanging between multiple scripts throughout the day and have to mentally switch from one sales style to another at a moment’s notice.
Cover most, if not all, of the bases
Agents are happiest when they have all the answers. Nothing is more demeaning than when an agent is faced with an unexpected question and they are stuck for words and unable to help (not to mention the potential for upsetting the customer). The trick is getting the balance right.
The agents need to be presented with enough options to cover most, if not all, bases. However, at the same time, it’s important not to overwhelm them with so many answers that the clear choice is not apparent straight away and the agent becomes confused. One solution is to place an ‘agent feedback’ button within the script. This automatically emails comments and queries directly to the script-building team. With this one simple action, you empower the agents to help create better scripts – the feedback from the agents can be collated and the script improved.
Your script needs to flow
Your script needs to be user friendly, efficient and it MUST flow.
When preparing a simple script plan it is important to make sure that your script will be fluent so that your agents can move through the stages swiftly, thus keeping your call durations as low as possible, but at the same time guaranteeing that your callers finish the conversation satisfied.
The easiest way to plan a script layout is using a flowchart. Flowcharts provide a pictorial view of the script pages and fluency, and are easily amended to include or remove pages.
Highlight important commands/instructions
Statements that must be spoken (i.e. certain legal declarations or specific terms and conditions) should be highlighted within the script to bring them to the agent’s immediate attention and ensure that due care is taken. This also highlights one of the key benefits of scripting… compliance. In heavily regulated industries, scripting plays a key role in ensuring that best practices and compliance regulations are constantly and consistently adhered to.
Show the customer history
Allow for the caller’s contact history to be accessible to the agent. If you implement the correct system then when a repeat call comes into your call centre, the previous customer history will appear on the agent’s screen. This will encourage familiarity and the agent will have a full overview of the customer’s past dealings.
Upselling and cross-selling
When building your script, it is worthwhile to note that much additional business revenue can come via up-sells and cross-sells.
You can maximise the script by using it to provide views of previous orders, allowing agents to shortcut the process for repeat orders, meaning that there is no need to rekey the same products again. Also by displaying items previously purchased, agents can be prompted to offer refills, replacements, etc., and also present the customer with complementary items.
Developing good scripts should always be seen as an ongoing process – not one that finishes when the script goes live in the call centre. Feedback can be gained through a variety of methods:
- Viewing the data that has been collected (both quality and quantity) to determine the effectiveness of the script.
- Analysing performance statistics (call durations, for example) – if agents are taking too long on what should be a straightforward call, is it because your script is too complex?
- Talking to agents and supervisors (informal feedback). They are the ones reading the script and handling the calls, therefore they are ideally placed to provide some honest feedback.
- Asking supervisors to make script reviews part of appraisal reviews or team meetings, to guarantee regular structured feedback.
- Analysing conversion rates (sales/contact) – have they decreased? Increased? Remained the same?
- Trying to ascertain whether fewer objections or problems are being passed to supervisors… if so then it would appear that your script is successful at this time (however, don’t become complacent!)
- Comparing an agent using the new script, to a manual agent; or comparing an agent with the latest script to an agent using a previous version. The performance of the two chosen agents should be a clear indication of your script efficiency.
Kevin Ellis is Sales Director at CallScripter (www.callscripter.com)