Customer Service Scripts and the Mickey Mouse effect

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.