Call Center Scripts, Call Flows, Communication Templates, Interaction Guides… oh my!

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Call center agent thinking about what to say nextSource: DepositPhotos.com

There has been much discussion among call center executives over the years about the use of call center scripts or call flows. And for a good reason. After all, once a customer gets through the company’s automated IVR system and reaches a live person, they want agents to engage with them in a natural, personable manner – not like they are talking to a chatbot.

The Difference Between Call Center Scripts and Call Flows

A call center script is often thought of in the same light as outbound telemarketing scripts of the ’80s and ’90s — rigid, fixed dialogue with little room to deviate or maneuver based on a customer’s response. In today’s customer service environment, scripts have evolved. When leveraged correctly, they capture best practice language for delivering information requiring little/no variation or compliance/regulatory statements that need to be precise.

A call center call flow, on the other hand, provides a loose set of guidelines about the general flow of the interaction and some suggested best-practice language. We typically think of call flows as having lots of room to diverge and maneuver. As a result, they should sound more natural. [NOTE: This is not to be confused with an IVR ‘call flow’ that defines the voice response prompts.]
Most organizations employ a combination of the two: Leveraging a best-practice call flow to guide the general direction of the conversation with more precise scripting for product descriptions, compliance statements, step-by-step procedures, etc.

How Call Flows Drive Better Customer Interactions

No matter what you call it, there are some excellent reasons to provide call center reps with a guide that leverages best-practice language and approaches:

(1) Branding: A call flow provides agents with guidance in HOW you want them to interact with customers in a way that accurately and professionally reflects your brand.
(2) New Hire Ramp-Up: Once a new agent has gone through their customer service training involving systems, policies, procedures, and finally soft skills training, it is surprising that they can remember anything! As a result, we often hear agents ‘practicing’ on customers — a situation we always want to avoid. A guide that highlights the most logical approach and best-practice language will ensure an agent won’t be left hanging, lost for words. Importantly, it will help build confidence.
(3) Consistency: It doesn’t make sense that agents spend the time and energy trying to re-invent their unique approach when best practice examples are plentiful in most centers.
(4) Compliance: When the specific words matter a lot, scripts are vital tools. It ensures that customers hear an accurate and precise accounting of critical medical, legal, regulatory, safety/security, or compliance information. (You may also want to learn about speech analyticsto help monitor compliance with any required scripting.)
(5) Efficiency: Callflows and scripts also help agents present information in the most concise and logical way possible.

10 Key Steps to Developing a Call Flow

(1) Map out the primary components of the interaction. For example:
– Greeting
– Authentication (if required)
– Problem/Issue Definition
– Probe for Root Cause
– Agreement to Proceed
– Objection Handling (if required)
– Recap/Next Steps
– Closing
(2) Draw out the decision points and how the conversation flows or branches from each point. I like to use Post-It notes. (See below for some examples)
(3) Listen to several agent calls (best/good/poor) to understand the many dimensions of the conversation. Highlight components of the calls that demonstrate what ‘best practice’ sounds like for your organization and brand.
(4) Avoid the temptation to lift your best practice examples from advertising copy. Instead, select the language and examples from among your top-performing agents. In this way, your examples will be natural and conversational. It’s the difference between:
– (Ad Copy) “At ABC Insurance we’ll help you get the home and auto insurance coverage that fits your needs.” and
– (Call Flow) “Let me ask you a few questions so I can make sure you get the insurance coverage you need. Alright?”
(5) Read the call flow/script out loud. Often, what you write won’t translate well when spoken.
(6) Engage a wider group of call center supervisors and agents to walk through the call flow and provide their feedback and perspective. By involving frontline managers and agents, you will have much greater buy-in later on.
(7) Test the call flow with a diverse team of agents (high/lower performing agents). Do lots of monitoring of their interactions. Debrief with the team about their personal use of the call flow, what worked, what didn’t, barriers to use, etc.
(8) Keep testing new approaches (employ an A/B test scenario if possible) to identify the winning combination.
(9) Continue to ‘tweak’ the call flow as you uncover even better ways to communicate.
(10) Align your quality assurance criteria and training with your call flow/script.

NOTE: If you want to collaborate with a team that works virtually, check out Mural, a digital workspace for visual collaboration.

Sample Call Flows

NOTE: The following are EXAMPLES ONLY

WORD DOCUMENT

There are a number of ways to deliver a call flow. Most often, call flows are simply presented in a text format like this – which makes it challenging to use as a support tool:

– Greeting: “Thank you for calling ABC Rentals. This is [Agent]. How may I help you today?”
– Identify Customer Need and Clarify Need (if required)
– Offer to Help: “I can definitely help you with that.”
– Ask for Name: “May I ask who I am speaking with.”
– Use the Customer’s Name: “Thank you [Name].”
– Questions to Determine Fit: Permission to ask questions – “Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”
– Calculate Price – “I am just going to put you on hold for a moment while I calculate the price for you. Alright?”
– Thank the caller for holding – “Thank you for holding.”
– Present Recommendation + Trial Close: “Based on your specific requirements, I would recommend {XXX}. The price for the week is {$}, and it can be delivered by Thursday. How does that sound?”
– Handle Objections – Need to check with someone else: “That’s understandable. How about I follow-up with you later today?” Price is too high: “Have you looked at other options? Do you have a price range in mind?”
– Agreement to Proceed: “Great! I’m going to ask you a few more questions to complete the order. Okay?”
– Complete order online
– Cross-sell: “Many of our customers appreciate our {X} insurance coverage. The benefit to you is {benefit}. Would you like me to add that to your order?”
– Recap
– Close – “Do you have any further questions for me?” {Personalize with the reason for the rental.} “Thank you for calling ABC Rentals.

GRAPHIC

A better approach is to provide the agent with a visual, graphic diagram that they can hang on their wall or keep on their desk to remind them of the approach. It may look like this (using any number of flowcharting apps like Microsoft PowerPoint/Visio):
Source: www.verequest.com

How much detail you provide is based on the level of experience your agents have and the type of scenario you are designing the call flow for – like this simplified healthcare appointment scheduling example:
Source: www.verequest.com

CALL CENTER SCRIPTING SOFTWARE

Alternatively, for more complex scripts/call flows, several call center scripting applications can capture a much wider range of possibilities. Consider Inisoft or ProcedureFlow.

Source: https://inisoft.com/contact-center/syntelate-for-pom/

Customers Don’t Follow Scripts!

The reality is that customers do NOT follow scripts, and so an agent will always need to be flexible and nimble in how they work with any form of guide. Customers do not respond well if what they are hearing sounds canned and impersonal. However, you can help your agents’ human-ness shine through by:

(1) Mastering the Flow: In addition to walking the agent through the call flow, give them plenty of time to role-play with a colleague or a professional role-playing organization. Run the agent (and the call flow) through a wide variety of scenarios until they have mastered the call flow and demonstrated their ability to ‘go with the flow of the conversation.
(2) Paying Attention to Voice Inflection: Practice voice inflection. Take your role-playing to the next level by practicing voice inflections. Voice inflection plays a crucial role in communicating in an empathetic and ‘human’ way. While it is true that you can’t script genuine empathy, agents can be taught how to sound genuinely empathetic.

There are Limits and Limited Returns

The reality is that you can’t possibly create a call flow or script to cover off every possible customer scenario. And, for some agents, having to follow a specific flow may come in the way of building natural rapport. That’s why we recommend that all agents leverage a call flow/script until they have proven their ability to consistently engage in a customer interaction that hits all your points related to brand, accuracy, efficiency, and clarity. And then, set them free (while still working within the general guidelines) to improvise and add their own personal flare! That is how you create even better customer experiences.

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