Customer Service Scripts and the Mickey Mouse effect


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Anyone who’s working in the Customer Service or Support industry for any length of time has either written or read a call script.

Call scripts enable the agent to read aloud over the phone while following a process decision tree depending on what the customer says.

Scripts could also take the form of pre formated emails or a solution selling presentation where the agent just walks the customer or interested party through the content.

Scripts are boring; for the customers and for the agents. They don’t encourage agents to have or show any personality or creativity. 

Scripts kill any ability for agents to think laterally, solve problems for themselves or change course on the fly based on how the conversation is going.

Oh did I mention conversations? Scripts don’t allow for conversations any more than short comments or statements, because often the agent just cant contribute to it.

You’ll often find scripts in call centers with high staff turnover and large teams all reporting to one manager who’s just too busy to care about delivery and execution. Those agents often dont understand the industry their calling about, anything about the person or business they are talking to or even have any life experience to think about things with a wider frame of mind.

Scripts allow humans to be turned into process machines with low success rates and poor morale. In fact I would go so far as to say that scripts have caused much of todays systemic failures in the customer service industry from telcos to clothing stores.

People reading scripts don’t think for themselves. They are following a predefined process map and if the process deviates they stumble, hesitate, lose confidence, mumble and lose the sale. The company and the brand loses reputation.

Scripts make your agents sound like robots. I was sitting in an office at my bank recently going through an insurance application. It was a face to face meeting with a video phone. So we could see and hear each other. And yet the agent read a script, in mono tone and even when I refused to follow her path she just kept going, ignoring anything from me that did not fit her scripted process.

That experience in the bank could have been fun and enjoyable but ended up being tedious and frustrating. In the end I left with a poor experience and a story that bank would not be proud to see being written about.

Your agents should know your business, products, services and systems inside out and back to front before they get any where near a phone or reply to an email. They should be able to think on their feet, resolve problems independently and overcome objections in a cool, calm and collected manner, with confidence.

Sales and service is all about personal confidence. The agent must be confident in the advice they are giving and the customer must feel confident that the agent knows what they are doing.

In New Zealand we call this “Mickey Mouse”. When the interaction does not follow the general course that the staff member has been trained for and the whole experience goes pear shaped as they try desperately to work it out.

People get nervous, anxious and flustered, look stupid and incompetent. Then their bosses get angry and either fire them or put their staff through more rigorous training teaching the same stuff over and over.

I don’t believe by nature these people are stupid or incompetent. They are just forced to look that way when the training and management they have been given is terrible to start with. 

As soon as more companies start to allow their staff to think for themselves, learn and be human again we might start to see personal, friendly and enjoyable service experiences come back to our lives. 

Much like Marketing and PR have to “let go” of some control of their messages and brand since the onset of social media; businesses owners must give their staff faith and confidence to do the right thing. Nurturing a culture of independent leadership and responsibility will help everyone have a better experience while doing business with you.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Justin Flitter
Justin shares stories, information and advice on Customer Service and Social Media for Business. Justin is based in Auckland, New Zealand and has almost 1 years experience in the Customer Service industry. Justin is the Social Media Manager for


  1. Well put Justin,
    You raise a good point, well actually a few. But lets focus on the ‘script’ – the noose around the CSR’s neck.

    There’s situations where scripts could be the only way something can be handled; but in general what all CSRs need is a few pointers on key information, access to (and use of) product/service knowledge. Anything other than that is pointless, all it does is constrain the CSR and in doing so they’re not delivering as well as the possibly could if they were un-scripted.

    Let CSRs be themselves, it’s important their personality comes across – when did you last (first) see a robot in a retail store? They should be given your trust & support and you should simply let them get on with it.

  2. Justin- I think you make some very valid points. One of our cornerstone pieces of functionality is scripting (Agent Desktop)and we see the need for it mainly because our clients want a consistent experience for their customers. Additionally, the software that is used for the agent desktop must be dynamic enough to give flexibility to the agent in order to change on the fly. Nobody wants to talk to a robot, but we also need to understand that not all agents are capable of handling the interaction, thus the need for a scripted dialog. As companies outsource their call center operations, scripting becomes a more integral part of the puzzle since the agents do not have the deep product or service knowledge required to navigate the interactions without scripting.

  3. They are programmed like mice. They make patronizing comments like “Can I help you” or “Are you all right there?”. Most of the time the staff can’t or wont engage in any sort of conversation, banter or small talk unless you’re walking to the checkout when they start talking to each other.

    It’s not exactly hard to stand out in this industry, yet 99% of companies fail to see the opportunity thats right in their face

  4. Surely if the agent does not have the deep product or service knowledge required to navigate the interactions without scripting they should either not be in that job or trained better.
    Outsourcing for me is one of the key reasons the Customer Service industry has spiraled out of control over the last decade or more. Quality has gone down as companies try to reduce overheads and systemize their processes.

    Customers are tired of being apart of the process and procedure, they want to be looked after, appreciated and valued.

    Even though this would undoubtedly increase costs there is research to prove that the improvement in the customer experience would retain customers and staff for longer, reduce customer churn rates and increase sales and loyalty.

    I have no issue with canned responses as long as the agent is required to fill in the caps and personalize the message.

    Good debate. Thanks for your time Kevin

  5. Justin,

    Again, I do not disagree with you. Customers do want the best (me included! – LinkedIn Customer Service).

    Unfortunately, the high turnover, cost of training and mismatch of skill level to pay level makes it tough to have that ideal scenario where agents are able to provide the top level of service. There are companies that do it very well, but most do not.

    Additionally, the cost pressures of corporate operations are forcing the hand toward outsourcing contact centers. I also have an opinion on that one too- (American’s Prefer American Agents).

    In the end, the companies that can integrate agent scripting in such a way that they can optimize the customer experience, are the ones that end up winning.


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