We asked our panel for their advice on what to do, and what to avoid, if you need to use call scripting.
Incoming and outgoing contacts are not the same
When considering the best use of scripts in a contact centre, there is a need to differentiate between incoming and outgoing contacts as the requirements are not the same.
Use scripting sparingly on inbound contacts
Scripting should be used very sparingly on incoming customer contacts. If someone gets in touch with a contact centre agent the chances are they want to speak to a human being. As such, listening to someone reel off scripted material or receiving an obviously standard reply text is likely to grate with a customer. This can result in losing the customer and could also damage the reputation of your business should that individual air their grievances in a public forum – particularly online.
Pre-written statements for online use
For online responses it is often useful to generate a bank of pre-written statements with pertinent information in them, which can easily and naturally be inserted into a text response. This ensures all the correct information is present and understandable, while saving both the customer and the agent valuable time.
Don’t read out scripts for outbound use
If agents are required to use scripted dialogue for outgoing voice conversations, this needs to be learned prior to any calls being made. This avoids the mechanical and impersonal exercise of having to read out a script during a call. To make a script memorable it needs to be in simple language and should comprise short sentences and paragraphs. Key words and phrases used for metrics should be highlighted in bold, so that an agent knows they must learn these and ensure they include them during conversations.
Having learned a script, and if they have the confidence, agents should be allowed to put this information into their own words, making sure to incorporate key metrics. This creates a more natural feel and is more likely to gain a positive response from an existing or potential customer. Many find it useful to have key words and phrases written down as bullet points to act as an aide-memoire.
Ultimately, making a sale and good customer service are about confidence. Scripts need to be used correctly to build confidence and knowledge; however, if used too rigidly they can have the opposite effect.
Dave Paulding, Regional Sales Director UK, Middle East & Africa, Interactive Intelligence
Breaking down the barriers
Make it customer specific
Whether you are running tight scripts in a very controlled environment, perhaps due to legislative or compliance requirements, or have the opportunity to utilise a more free-form or loose scripting, the use of scripts can and should be largely driven by an intelligent unified agent desktop that automatically pulls customer-specific information from back-office applications and populates them onto a single screen. This approach helps to remove the typical obstacles to effective customer contact, giving the agent easy access to all information that will help build a quick rapport and provide a positive experience that makes the customer feel special.
Don’t be rigid
Every conversation is different, so scripting will only be effective if you can give your agents a degree of flexibility and freedom. If your scripting tool is fully integrated with all the relevant back-office systems, such as CRM, this can help the agent to think on their feet, because real-time updates can provide the vital information that may not have been available on the original script. Similarly if a script is failing to deliver the results you want, you need the ability to change this on-the-fly and simply apply any alterations across the whole contact centre.
Don’t underestimate the power of QA
Whilst QA allows you to meet any regulatory demands, you also need the capability to highlight where agents are failing to carry out certain procedures such that a sale or transaction is not completed. For example, in the claims management industry the ‘pack-back’ rate measures when an application pack is returned because it has not been filled in properly. Whilst the original conversation between the agent and the customer may have been fully compliant, you also need to create alerts when procedures are overlooked, repeated or incorrect data is captured. An early warning system means you can take any remedial action immediately, so agents do not repeat their mistakes, increase wrap-up time and lose more potential business in the future.
Carl Adkins, Founder of contact centre software provider, Infinity CCS
Read it out loud
After you’ve taken into account what the client wants – whether they’re an internal department or an outsourced customer – then checked and double checked that all the legal and regulatory boxes are ticked, sit back and review what you are about to present to your agents.
Read through those scripted sections and do it out loud; do you have sentences packed full of acronyms and would it actually be better to have some of those read out in full? How easily does the script flow? Have you inadvertently come up with a tongue twister to test the most tenacious conversationalist?
You may need to meet a whole host of regulatory requirements but you can still do this with clear and concise language that both your agents and your callers will appreciate. If you don’t have to cover off a page of Ts & Cs, small print and legal disclaimers during a telephone call but still find yourself mapping out a flowchart and script for a relatively basic call centre process (just because that’s how you’ve always done it), I’d urge you to have more faith in your agents.
Have more faith in your agents
They are your front-line experts; you recruited them because of their personality, language skills and attention to detail; you have invested in their training and development. Your customers and callers want a seamless service, so trust your agents to provide information and to record data at the appropriate points (using on-screen prompts if needed) during a naturally flowing conversation.
Everyone expects to be read out the direct debit agreement, it’s a necessary evil of doing business over the phone, but script pretty much anything else during a run-of-the-mill call and you lose the chance for the agent to build a relationship with the caller.
Tracey Limbert, Head of Outsourced Operations, mplcontact
You put in what you get out!
While planning your scripts, do check who needs them, when and why. It sounds excruciatingly obvious but it will make you truly think about how your contact centre is performing. For example, it will make you consider how many people are involved in each type of call and which systems and scripts they are using.
Frequently we come across a scenario where agents or advisors have a reasonable script but it doesn’t work because they are floundering around, flicking through too many information systems (like spreadsheets, external data verification and handwritten notes stuck to the computer screen) when speaking to customers!
This really slows staff down, irritates waiting customers and reduces overall productivity, so get your technology right and then your agent will have the best chance of working well with a script.
Personalise scripts for the individual
To make dialogue sound more natural, personalise scripts for teams and individual agents.
Make scripted questions and information short and easy to understand, without jargon. If you are relaying important information, add in a check to ensure that customers have understood and cannot misinterpret anything.
Remember that while scripts are useful, they won’t solve every customer’s problem and their success rate should be checked regularly. The right training and the correct use of technology will maximise the effectiveness of any script, so consider these too.
Ken Reid, Rostrvm Solutions
Do – use call guides, not scripts
Try to offer guiding principles and prompts rather than entire scripts, which make it very difficult for an agent to sound knowledgeable, confident and engaging, potentially turning off customers or prospects.
Personalising each call can significantly improve the customer experience, switching your customers back on and delivering better results. Let’s face it, it’s far more likely that a customer will make a purchase if they are offered the personal treatment and build some rapport with an agent. A script only hinders this and makes the customer feel unimportant. In some cases a call might be your only contact with that customer in the entire year – it seems such a waste to not make it count.
Whatever part the script plays in your contact centre, the golden rule is to do your research. An agent that can utilise current affairs and understands the business they’re targeting is of far greater value than someone who can simply memorise a script.
Nicola Brookes NewVoiceMedia
How far do you “have” to go when scripting a call?
These are questions that we are asked time and time again. The answer very much depends on the type of business that you have.
Let’s look at two extremes.
- The Financial Arena: Over the past ten years or more the financial arena (and similar businesses) has become even more regulated. Ofcom, FSA and others have been very strict about what an agent can and cannot say. When scripting for agents you must have, as a minimum, the “words and phrases” that satisfy the regulatory boards. If for no other reason, it could save you a huge fine! However, once the “must haves” are catered for, it’s always good to allow your agents to see the various scripts that are available to help them deal with your clients.
- The Customer Services Arena: Customer services and retailing can become a Profit Centre rather than the traditional Cost Centre by virtue of the agents being allowed to “express” themselves more freely. The scripting needed is less restrictive (but please do remember Ofcom and other rulings) and therefore can be more of a suggestion rather than a “must say”.
Colour and pictures are helpful
A good solution will allow you to enter these scripts in such a way that your agents enjoy using them. Colour and pictures are always helpful, and the ability to link the script back to regulatory statements allows your agents to feel empowered.
When your agents feel in control and know that all of the options are available to them they will, by default, have better and more meaningful conversations with your clients. They will own the conversation and will sound like the subject experts.
Allow your agents to “free wheel”
By allowing your agents to “free wheel” and use the script as a guide, you will also allow them to use the skills they have in a much more natural way. By building a relationship with your clients you will reap the benefits and sell, cross-sell or up-sell to your clients. Customer Services doesn’t have to be the “complaint line”, it can be a revenue generator as well as keeping your clients on board rather than jumping ship.
Conclusion – a good contact centre will have a scripting tool that is flexible and easy to use. It will be capable of using colour and pictures and, of course, must be easy to change without repeated visits to your supplier and PS costs!
When considering your scripts, ensure that all of the information is available, but don’t necessarily put everything on one page. Links to separate pages and easy-to-read scripts are a must.
Please remember that the scripts are there to help the agents.
Roy Holmes, Vocalcom