Agent Insight #1: The Positive and Negative of Agent Scripting

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“When people call our call center, our reps don’t have scripts, and they don’t try to up-sell. They are just judged on whether they go above and beyond for the customer and really deliver a kind of personal service and emotional connection with our customers.” – Tony Hseih, CEO, Zappos.com

This quote by Tony Hseih is often cited as a central argument against agent scripting, or using text scripts for agents. On the flip side, agent scripting provides an effective guide, and a consistent interaction that can be easily replicated across the agent workforce. So, who’s right? To script or not to script?

In order to understand an agent’s perspective, we spoke to a Blue Ocean veteran named Nick. His feelings on the subject were quite clear. Nick has been with Blue Ocean for several years, working on various projects supporting companies in the technology and automotive industries. As Nick sees it, and as many other agents we’ve talked to see it, there are clear pros and cons to agent scripting.

Pros of Agent Scripting

  • It’s good for new, less experienced agents. When a “newbie” is on the phones, it’s more comforting to have the script to rely on.
  • It maintains consistent processes across the call center. Whether the customer has called before or not, they can expect similar treatment and consistent answers to questions, regardless of the agent they talk to. 
  • When integrated with an IVR or other application, scripting can help display the correct info at the right time in the process. 

Cons of Agent Scripting

  • Requiring experienced agents to read a script from their screen can dehumanize the interaction, add unnecessary dialogue, and ultimately hurt the customer experience. 
  • Changes in business conditions (i.e. new products, offers, etc.) require scripts to be updated often and tweaked as feedback from the frontlines reaches the home office. 
  • Scripting can have a negative impact on metrics, such as adding to average handle times. 

Is there a middle ground in the scripting debate? Nick said this, “Yes, I think there is a way to compromise and get the best from both a script and an experienced agent.” One potential solution could be a incorporating a training probation period for agents. An agent can pass out of the training by demonstrating competency in handling the call with or without a script. “Customers appreciate when you are considerate of their time,” Nick added, “I can remember one customer was in a real hurry and I knew exactly how to help him resolve the issue. I decided not to use the script and the customer wrote back to say how appreciative he was that he didn’t have to jump through hoops to get an answer.” Nick modestly admitted that this customer of our client’s had invested well over seven figures and was considering making a change, until his service experience with Nick cemented his loyalty.

Before you decide what’s right for you, ask yourself some questions about agent scripting. If agents will be using a script, how strictly will you enforce its use? Will you empower proven agents to deviate from the script to deliver a more ‘human’ experience? Which metrics are important to you and will scripting have a negative impact on those metrics? Goals vary for each customer service environment, but agents will work within whatever guidelines you set.

If you need help determining the right balance for agent scripting with you call center outsourcing program, contact us today.

Patty Isnor
Patty is a member of the senior management team, responsible for strategic direction and planning. With a strong emphasis on the development of human resource strategies; management of human resource and personnel functions for company, Patty also manages all aspects of the contact center facilities including all negotiations and management of various offices.

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