Today’s post is by Matt Matsui, SVP of Products, Markets, and Organizational Strategy at Calabrio.
Consumers interact with companies via phone every day, so it’s important that brands deliver the right experience every single time. Whether a customer is dialing in for support or is the recipient of a marketing call, contact center agents are on the other end of the line trying to resolve issues, promote new products, or offer upsell opportunities.
Given that customer experience is the number one priority for many companies, all interactions must cater to the needs and wants of each individual customer. But it’s painfully obvious when a contact center agent is simply reading from a script. These interactions often feel awkward, stiff, or impersonal. In addition, the rigid nature of scripts may be contributing to one of the top contact center issues: agent churn. While scripts make sense when it comes to consistency and compliance, they can be incredibly limiting to agents and, ultimately, to the customer experience.
The good news? It doesn’t have to be this way. By focusing on elevating the agent experience, providing the right training, and implementing the right technology, the contact center can empower agents to provide a personalized, contextualized customer experience – without relying on scripts.
Some contact center agents are trained to read from a variety of scripts that cater to specific products, services, or questions a customer may have. They’re used for consistency purposes because it’s easier to train agents and ensure compliance. Scripts are also great ways to onboard new agents: they help get new agents comfortable with answering questions and meeting objections – and also help them understand product features and benefits.
While these sound like great reasons to indefinitely rely on scripts, customers who want a personalized experience are really hearing an army of carbon-copy agents who robotically read what’s on the script rather than listen and adjust. Essentially, what scripts provide in terms of consistency, they lack in flexibility.
It Starts with the Agent Experience
One of the biggest struggles contact centers face is agent turnover, and the onboarding and training process is a huge indicator of whether an agent will be successful. Imagine being hired as a new agent: you’re trying to wrap your head around new products and new processes – all while trying to resolve customer issues and identify upsell opportunities. Sure, you may have other learning tools available, but your primary resource is a database of pre-written responses to common customer interactions. An upset customer calls and you follow the process by reading from the script. You hope for a resolution, but the customer responds in a way the script doesn’t anticipate. Now, you’re attempting to find another script that provides you with the “right” response, but you’re left searching and fumbling over words – all while the customer is becoming increasingly agitated. Does this sound like a position you would want to stay in for very long?
If agents are expected to deliver personalized customer experiences, then brands need to provide that same personalized experience for agents. Not forcing agents to read off a script increases employee engagement, which, in turn, can create deeper customer connections. Empowered agents are armed with the right training and technology that gives them the flexibility to make confident decisions in the moment – and that confidence translates to delivering a great customer experience.
The Right Technology
If agents are going to be freed from scripts, companies need to move beyond antiquated solutions. Contact centers must implement 100 percent call recording and combine that with keyword and phrase search parameters to identify, track, and monitor any potential compliance issues. Modern technology can help companies prevent and resolve those issues based on hard data, all without limiting an agent to a script. In addition, customer analytics offer insights into behavior patterns, and agents should be educated about those customer trends so they can enact the right strategies to address needs and wants.
Many companies leverage customer data to build scripts, but it’s actually the agents who should be leveraging that data. Customer data is much more valuable when agents are given the flexibility to interpret and use the data in the moment to address customer needs as they arise. Agents can use the insights to provide that personalized, tailored experience that cultivates customer loyalty.
The Right Training
If agents are expected to understand past customer data and combine that information with real-time customer interaction cues, companies must also train them in the art of human behavior. Agents must be educated on customer language usage as well as overarching company and contact center goals. In addition, agents should be trained experts in customer service. All of this information will paint a complete picture of the brand, the market, and the customer, which will give agents the tools they need to succeed. This may sound like a lot of effort on behalf of a brand, but, by implementing this level of training, companies will elevate the role of contact center agents into a team of highly trained – and skilled – experts that are on the front lines of delivering the right customer experience.
When brands focus on the agent experience and invest in the right technology and training to free agents from relying on scripts, they are accomplishing a number of important things at once. This not only allows agents to be more flexible and strategic – all while staying compliant – it elevates the role of contact center agents to data-driven, customer service experts.
When agents are properly equipped with tools and knowledge, they’re empowered to make the best decisions for customers – and everyone benefits. Customers on the receiving end of a great experience are more likely to stay, and, when agents feel valued and aren’t subject to rigid scripts and processes, companies see a decrease in churn. In the end, everyone benefits from leaving scripts behind.
Good article Matt. Customers expect a customized experience and scripts rarely provide that and are often delivered poorly. Technology is certainly one tool, but I'm not sure scripts are totally at fault. The inherent problem with scripts is that it is completely unnatural for 99% of the population to take words that aren't their own and deliver them conversationally. Actors study and train to be able to do this so that it appears natural. They have tools and techniques to help them make the words sound as if they are their own, and improvise or pivot off of script as necessary. Not providing salespeople with these tools and expecting them to deliver a script like a pro is wishful thinking. Sure, you may get a natural or two, just like there are some natural actors out there, but it's inconsistent at best.
Posted by: Julie Hansen | 10/12/2016 at 12:20 PM