What Are Customer Service Scripts and When to Use Them?
Tue, 16 Jul 2019, in Customer Service
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Scripting is a dirty word in customer service.
It’s enough to bring up an image of pushy salesmen with fake smiles and cheap platitudes from faraway call centers. At the same time, it’s important to understand the purpose of scripting, when and why they could be beneficial in your support department.
Back in 2012 the Journal of Service Research led an experiment, conducting low to high levels of scripted conversations between a reception clerk and a customer checking into a hotel. In the study customers correctly detected scripted conversations, which affected their experience in a negative way.
Companies that “follow the script” are singled out by customers and ridiculed online and offline. As a result, support departments tend to practice discretion in their use of scripts to help them approach every support situation as a unique one.
Companies like Bonobos, Dollar Shave Club and Zappos have long claimed to invest in completely unscripted customer service. They chalk up the increased cost of removing scripts from support guidelines or training manuals an inseparable part of their brand image.
Could there be any middle ground?
Why use scripts?
Scripts may be used by customer support staff in many routine situations:
- To follow up or send automated emails.
- To steer conversations the right way.
- To convey complex instructions regularly.
- When you don’t know the answer.
Scripts may be used by customer support departments for the purpose of working more effectively:
- To save time when replying to a ticket.
- To train support staff on typical user cases.
- To reduce error rates in their answers.
- Support staff may be tiered, or divided into teams with different skills.
Scripts may be used to manage support interactions and offering a specific level of service:
- Companies may have strict instructions on how a reply is crafted to ensure that support employees do not deviate too much from the company line.
- Specific questions may need to be answered according to the company’s standard. Feedback channels, media and manuals could be incorporated into a script.
- Some support departments work independently of the company actually selling the product. These outsourced call centers may need to rely on specific rules and regulations relayed by the parent company that they’d have to adhere to.
Why not use scripts?
Whatever industry you’re in, customers that are “on the fence” can easily switch to a brand that better connects with them. Even customers that are loyal to a particular brand can jump to someone that addresses their concerns better (even if the product or service may not necessarily be).
Script-heavy support can make customers feel unappreciated, and be a major pain point in the support experience. If not addressed by the company, it can contribute to churn over a longer period of time, too.
When not to use scripts:
- In situations where genuine feelings, empathy is needed. Empathy is difficult to get right and to teach to support representatives.
- When dealing with sad, angry or overly emotional customers. Instead, learn to pay attention to what customers are saying with active listening.
- When your comments could be interpreted as closed-minded, judgmental or insincere. Instead, learn to re-read customer requests and see the situation from their eyes.
How to find out if you’re overdoing it:
- Observe how your customer reacts to your support interactions, compare scripted interactions with non-scripted ones.
- Measure customer satisfaction after every support interaction and record it. If customers are leaving comments, take them into account.
- Listen to your gut feeling. Is your customer confused and has to re-ask a question again? Chances are that script didn’t fully address their question.
Try removing “rigid” scripts and embracing more of a guideline or a cheat sheet system. One of the ways this can be done is using placeholders (PS. you can use placeholders in Helprace’s saved responses).
Crafting a great support script
1. When you start a script, or a saved reply, ensure that you include a part about a customer’s name and topic they are asking about. Give them your name, if possible. This humanizes the interaction and removes the impression of a script.Hi (customer name), I’ll be happy to help you out.Hi (customer name), I really appreciate you telling me about this!
2. Rephrase the topic, question or main points of the subject matter your customer is asking about. Ask for clarification just in case. This sets a positive tone and makes the customer feel like you have actually listened to their case before answering.Is it ok if I ask you a few more questions about (topic)?I’m sorry to ask again, but I want to make sure I understand correctly. Are you having issues with (topic)?
3. Eliminate useless back-and-forth. Customers appreciate when you save them time and do some legwork for them. Suggest information outside of their initial question. Branch your answer out in order to cover a number of different customer responses / scenarios.Would you like to know more about (topic 1)? If so, (details of topic 1) if not, we can talk about (topic 2).
4. There are times when our answers aren’t helpful, and most customers won’t speak up about this. When finishing up your conversation, ask the customer if you’ve answered their questions sufficiently or if there’s anything else you can help them with.Did I miss anything in your question? Please let me know if I did.Is there anything else I can help you with?
Scripts are an invaluable tool for company executive and customer service managers, allowing companies to save time, money and deliver the support experience they most want to.
However, it’s also easy to slip into being insincere and lose that personal touch with the customer. Here’s a set of guidelines to consider:
- Know to remove the script when you really must step into the customer’s shoes.
- Avoid cliche phrases and statements that may come across as empty platitudes.
- Keep scripts short (unless explaining complex instructions) with room for modification.
- Keep track of customer satisfaction and examine their reactions to your scripted replies.
- Keep track of your scripts, which ones you use often and which ones don’t see much activity.
- Build a FAQ website or a self-service portal that allows customers to find the answer they need.
Most importantly, establish a schedule to revisit your scripts once in a while to reflect changes in support requests, company policy or your products.
With today’s customers stressed for time (and companies looking out for the bottom line), foregoing the use of scripts completely is just not practical. Besides, when used properly, scripts can help your staff offer better support and keep customers happier, for longer.