For many companies, maintaining dependable quality and consistency in customer service is a goal that both management and customer service representatives hope to achieve on a daily basis. As a result, service representatives are often given scripts to follow in order to ensure consistency in their support efforts. Many companies rely on scripts because they provide a clear communication of job expectations to employees while standardizing the service process and ensuring predictable outcomes in customer interactions.
While scripts are developed by management to increase the efficiency and quality of customer support, levels of use vary widely from rigid requirements to more flexible guidelines that allow the service representative to improvise as their interaction with the customer develops. Previous research into the effects of scripting has largely ignored customer perceptions of its use. However, two new studies from the University of Utah suggest that customers can easily detect when scripts are employed in face-to-face customer service interactions.
“Can Customers Detect Script Usage in Service Encounters? An Experimental Video Analysis” suggests that customers can tell the difference between varying levels of script usage in both standardized and customized encounters. Participants were shown videos of highly scripted, moderately scripted, and improvised interactions between an employee and a customer checking into a hotel (a standardized service experience) – and a customer seeking recommendations from a concierge (a customized service experience). The study found that the participants could detect all levels of scripting in both situations.
“Even if the differences are subtle, they could spot the differences,” said Professor Don Wardell, a study author.
Do Customers Mind Scripts?
Building on this research, a study entitled “Scripting the Service Encounter: A Customer’s Perspective of Quality” found that customers don’t mind scripting in their service experiences, as long as it is used in a standardized interaction. When customers are seeking answers for complex issues or customized information, however, they prefer an improvised conversation based on the needs of their individual case.
“They want the interaction to feel sincere and natural, and not feel robotic,” Wardell added. “They want to feel like the person cares about their request and that they’re being treated as individuals, not some mass-produced commodity.”
“Companies that are implementing scripts are doing it for operational reasons,” Wardell said. “They want to control the quality and the encounter and make sure certain things happen and certain steps are followed by their employees. But there are wants and desires customers have for natural language and being treated as an individual. The people designing the services need to be careful about what kind of scripting they’re going to use.”
Scripting has many benefits in terms of quality control and developing a consistent customer experience, but businesses must assess the value of consistency versus the advantages of allowing or promoting a more human, personalized customer service conversation. By achieving an acceptable balance between consistent messaging and the human element, companies can provide an outstanding service experience for each and every customer.
What do you think of scripting for customer service interactions? Are there certain channels (phone, email, etc.), or certain touchpoints in customer service where scripting works better than an improvised conversation?
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