Why Customer Service Scripting IS Necessary: ‘Our System is Beyond Our Control’


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There has always been a debate on whether scripting for customer service reps will make them sound too mechanical and less spontaneous. A recent interaction with American Express highlights exactly why scripting at least as a guide is necessary.

My daughter was about to travel out of state and had lost her debit card. I had an extra card on my American Express business card with her name on it since she sometimes does work for me. I told her she could use it on her trip and made a call to American Express to make sure the card was still valid since it had not been used in a long time. I was assured all was good to go. A few days later, I was called by my daughter who told me that charges were being denied. (Now we won’t even get into why she was charging $3 and $5 items to my gold card!?)

I called American Express and they transferred me to the fraud protection unit who lifted the hold on the card and said she should have no further problems using the card. Fast forward 24 hours and again I get a call from my daughter saying that again charges were being denied.

At this point I am a bit ticked off. I had spent a good twenty minutes the previous day clearing up the matter and since on vacation did not look forward to going through it all again. When I realized that they were going through the exact same process that had failed the day prior, I asked to speak to a supervisor. It was a Saturday evening at 5pm. I was told that the supervisor was in a meeting and would not be out for over an hour. ‘On a Saturday night your supervisors are in a meeting?’ I was a bit skeptical about there being a meeting of supervisors at 5pm on Saturday. ‘Surely you have some supervisor who can talk to me… you are a big company!’ She put me on hold and came back and said that no supervisor could talk to me. I then asked her how SHE could explain that after I had approved all future charges on this card in a specific location by my daughter, WHY this happened again. Her reply?

“Maam I’m sorry but our sytem is beyond our control.”

Seriously? This is what American Express wants to convey to me when I am upset… that their system is out of control?

I was promised a call back by a supervisor. Big surprise – that call never came. So Lynn RVPG… (that was her rep number given to me when asked) maybe you never told the supervisor I was upset? Not a good call! If you did tell a supervisor and they never called back, even worse!

Lessons we can all take from this customer service close encounter?

  1. Review possible scenarios that will cause customer angst
  2. Determine causes to avoid such scenarios
  3. When service failure occurs, have a scripted explanation that builds confidence in your company – not destroys it
  4. Have supervisors available at all times if possible; Sometimes your customer just needs to talk to a voice of higher authority
  5. If a supervisor is not available and a front line rep gives a promise of a call back, make sure it happens

One final thought: what are the expectations of the level of service provided by your firm or organization. In this case we were talking about American Express, so my expectations were pretty high. When you market based on an expectation of a high level of service, you are in greater danger of a higher level of dissatisfaction when service failure occurs!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Teresa Allen
Teresa Allen is a nationally recognized customer service speaker and customer service author. Allen is owner of Common Sense Solutions, a national training and consulting firm focused on bringing common sense to business and life. Allen is author of Common Sense Service: Close Encounters on the Front Lines and is co-author of The Service Path: Your Roadmap for Building Strong Customer Loyalty.


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