February 17, 2016
Every contact center will use their call scripts a little differently, and the way in which they are structured will fall somewhere on a spectrum ranging from rigid to flexible. On one end, call scripts can be rigid with clear, definitive paths for the conversation to follow and direct responses to common inquiries. Others will function more like guidelines with key points in bulleted lists. The agent can then ride the flow of the conversation and react more naturally.
Every contact2 center must find the point on the spectrum that both matches the needs of the customer as well as the skillset of the agents. Lurching too far to one side or the other could either create agent turnover or hurt the customer experience.
The key is to develop a contact/call center script that balances the two extremes in the most effective way.
The Argument for a Rigid Script
At first glance, it may appear as though a tight, rigid script would be the least effective approach. The mind conjures images of agents robotically reciting the same canned responses to their callers over and over again. It doesn’t seem very personal or natural, and consumers want to feel like they are interacting with real human beings.
However, the contact/call center must be able to process a large volume of calls and either convert them, qualify them, or otherwise achieve their goals. There simply isn’t time for every agent to meander around a conversation with idle chit chat. When attempting to balance speed with quality, uniformity can be an effective tool. When most calls follow a specific path and typically end in the same amount of time, the calls become predictable and therefore, more manageable.
Scenarios for a Rigid Script
- Simple and Transactional Calls: A rigid script is best used when the product, service, or purpose of the call is simple. For example, if the contact center’s primary responsibility is to schedule appointments for callers who are already interested in scheduling, each call is going to naturally follow the same path anyway. A call script just ensures that the predictable call moves from point A to point B in the most efficient manner possible.
- High Turnover Centers or New Hires: For contact/call centers with high turnover rates or those rapidly expanding, a rigid script could serve as a way for new hires to quickly learn the process and begin taking calls. Once the agents learn the ropes, it is easy to open up the conversation and allot them a new level of freedom. Until they gather the necessary experience to talk naturally about the product, the script can serve as a useful crutch.
- Outbound Promotional Call: When making an outbound sales call, a rigid script can keep the staff on point on message. There may not be enough time to give each call center agent enough working knowledge of the product or service to have free-form conversations. Using rigid instructions for at least the beginning of conversations can make even a layperson sound like an expert.
The Argument for a Flexible Script
On the other end of the spectrum is the new trend in the contact/call center. Instead of a formal script, write a loose set of guidelines to nudge the conversation down a certain path. These guidelines give ample flexibility to the agent to use their judgement when responding to the customer’s questions, complaints, and concerns. Generally, a flexible call script will sound more natural and fluid, but that is not always a good thing. Without clear responses to questions, agents can distribute misinformation, stumble over their words, and portray the company in a less than favorable way.
Scenarios for a Flexible Script
- Complex Product: If the product or service offered by the contact/call center is nuanced, ambiguous, or otherwise complex, a rigid script is going to completely fall apart. Either the script will be too vague and unable to provide the information for every possible question or so detailed that it becomes cumbersome to try to use it at the natural speed of conversation. Either way, an alternative must be used.
- Team of Subject Matter Experts: If the skill level and expertise of the call/contact center agents is very high, it may be detrimental from a customer experience standpoint to confine these experts to following a rigid script. Whether outbound or inbound calling, let them use their knowledge and experience to the fullest.
Other Considerations in a Contact Center Script
Review the Script Regularly
Appoint a small team of agents to review the call script on a regular basis and identify areas for improvement, obsolete or inaccurate information, or inefficiencies.
This is an effective strategy for a few reasons. First, it keeps the script lean, fresh, and accurate. Make sure to track analytics using reporting features in Cisco Unified Contact Center Express (UCCX) or Customer Interaction Center (CIC) to measure the success or shortcomings of script alterations.
Second, it gives the contact/call center team an element of ownership of their script. Some people may be averse to following a specific set of instructions for how to communicate with customers. By bringing them into the fold, the agents will appreciate the opportunity to give input and feel pride when the script is a success.
Write the Script to be Spoken, Not Read
This may seem obvious, but a script is written to be recited aloud. The language used should reflect that dynamic. When we speak, we often choose to use short and simple sentences in plain language, so avoid long compound sentences and intricate introductory clauses. Be sure to add a few colloquialisms to help it sound natural.
Write the Script to Be Scanned
In the middle of a call, it is entirely possible for a contact/call center agent to blank on the next response or key product information. The script can be a lifesaver in these situations if written effectively. Use typographical and design elements to help the script morph into an easy reference document. By highlighting important phrases, changing the size of certain text, and arranging the response on the page, an agent can overcome this momentary lapse. Remember, most agents will know the script forward and backwards. They will only need a visual cue to recall the information.
Understand, Don’t Memorize
Here is where the nuances of contact/call center scripting come into play. A rigid script can be beneficial, but even still, you don’t want the agents to memorize it word for word. That kind of recitation will still include an artificial element to it. Rather, the agent should understand the script. They should understand the flow of the conversation, understand why the responses are structured as they are, and understand how to move the conversation from one stage to another.
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