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Customer Service is No Longer a Script; It’s a Conversation

By on Mar 20, 2013 4 Comments

According to a recent Ovum study of more than 8,000 consumers, 74% now use at least three channels when interacting with an enterprise for customer related issues – and this stepping stone approach to resolution is forever changing the way service and support agents communicate with customers.

For many brands, customer support scripts have been a long-time staple for standardizing the service process and ensuring predictable outcomes in customer interactions. But no more, as customer movement across multiple channels requires brands to literally carry on a conversation from one channel to the next.

Seamless Service
More and more customers are now expecting service and support to be agile – that they can start an interaction at one point, whether that’s phone or email or help desk, and the brand or organization should be able to carry over that information and continue the conversation as the customer arrives at the next touchpoint (perhaps social, mobile or chat). This could be across a timeframe of a few days or hours, or with the convergence of channels such as social and mobile, it could be just a few minutes.

The ability to carry on that customer service conversation across one, two, three or more channels without the consumer ever having to start over again is now a key customer experience differentiator, requiring many large organizations with siloed customer service processes to now rethink and reorganize to centralize channels. Add to that, the desire and expectation for increased personalization, and the evolution of customer conversations becomes even more complex.

Says Don Wardell, author of the study “Scripting the Service Encounter: A Customer’s Perspective of Quality”, “(Consumers) want the interaction to feel sincere and natural, and not feel robotic.

“They want to feel like the person cares about their request and that they’re being treated as individuals, not some mass-produced commodity.” The more brands can customize and personalize each customer service interaction using customer data, the better the impression.

So ditch the script. Echoing the words of IBM CEO Ginni Rometty in a recent Forbes interview on ways technology will transform the future of business, “If you have a call center, it’s no longer about a script,” she said. “It’s about a dialogue.”

Republished with author's permission from original post.

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Categories: ! BlogCustomer ExperienceService and Support
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4 Responses to Customer Service is No Longer a Script; It’s a Conversation

  1. Simon Bell March 21, 2013 at 7:44 am #

    Amazing timing, Tricia. I was renewing my car insurance yesterday and naturally considered the renewal price with suspicion. So I called up an alternative company with the best (plausible) online price and was delighted with the conversational style of the call centre agent. I am, however, a loyal person, so I secretly wanted to stay with the loveable dog and was willing to suffer a less competitive price, but I wasn't willing to suffer the way the agent treated me during my subsequent call. As I was in a cheerful mood, my tone was on the high side, my pace quite rapid and my sentences ended on the rise, but the agent clearly wasn't listening. His tone was flat, his pace was regular and he ended each sentence flatly – he sounded robotic. Having spent a lifetime studying the effect voice sounds have in telesales, I couldn't help but comment on his behaviour – he was crossing my transaction, after all. I told him politely that I was hoping to talk about it rather than just swap notes on the subject, and his response was amazing. He said, "I'm sorry, Mr. Bell, but I must keep to my script!” In the end, he gave me a good price, but not good enough for me to suffer a customer experience like that – to give up the conversation and settle for a script.

  2. Tricia Morris March 21, 2013 at 10:40 am #

    Simon – I’m pretty sure this is the best comment I’ve ever received on a post. Thanks so much for sharing this personal story. If I would have had the same experience, the outcome would have been the same for me. I’ll take authentic conversation over a script any day.

    Thanks again – appreciate you sharing that story! ~ Tricia

  3. Simon Bell March 22, 2013 at 8:56 am #

    Thank you Tricia, I really appreciate it. This is a topic that's very close to my heart. I spent a lot of years working in telesales when I was younger, and while I always enjoyed it, I noticed how stressful the work is for many other agents. Since, I have devoted my adult career to coaching and training call centre agents, to make the experience better for both agent and customer. The problem is that when a sales agent interacts with a customer on the phone, they are denied any visual cues as to the emotional state of the customer, and this generates an element of stress. This stress can be minimised if the agent is made aware of the importance and meaning of voice sounds, but too often, the agent is only taught what to say, and not how to say it or how to listen. If the agent understands the emotional effect or their voice and how to react to the voice sounds of customers, they will be able to rely less on scripts and let the conversation develop naturally, making it feel much more sincere and less robotic. While experiences like the one I had the other day really do annoy me as a customer, my main concern is with the well-being of the agent. In fact, companies that demand agents 'stick to the script' are undermining the very humanity of agents. They are implying that agents, the individual, is 'not good enough'. This denies the agent of any sense of challenge or even achievement and is the main reason for high call centre turnover.

  4. Tricia Morris March 22, 2013 at 6:24 pm #

    What terrific insights. I hope everyone takes time to read your comments, because there are some fantastic lessons and advice in them. Obviously, you care very much about good customer service and the customer experience – and caring makes all the difference. Thanks again, and all the best! – Tricia

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