25 tips for optimizing your contact center's QA practices
Quality assurance does more than ensure regulatory compliance, it helps contact centers deliver the best outcomes for customers. Read our blog for tip...
The Team at CallMiner
June 12, 2019
Call center agents must be ready to handle a variety of situations and customer interactions, making scripts for different purposes a must for some companies. Whether you employ scripted language for greeting customers or closing sales or offer special guidance for agents who handle difficult customer interactions, such as agitated customers, scripts can be useful for ensuring agents comply with all legally required language, such as the mini-Miranda for collection agency compliance.
In addition to creating scripts to guide agents in communicating with customers, the use of call monitoring solutions can aid QA and compliance teams in making sure that agents are acting in compliance with call center regulations, following required scripts, and that the scripts are achieving desired results (such as de-escalating customer frustrations or converting prospects to buyers). Additionally, call center leaders can use call recordings to analyze the techniques employed by their top-performing agents, integrating those techniques in scripts to improve performance across the board.
Want more information about improving agent performance? Download our whitepaper “5 Ways to Create Engaged & Empowered Call Center Agents”
To help you develop effective call center scripts – and understand when and how to use them wisely – we’ve rounded up 25 valuable tips from call center experts and customer service thought leaders below. Read on to learn more about the key elements for effective call center scripts, when to give agents leeway to go off-script, and how to best leverage call center scripts to boost performance.
1. Hire for customer service excellence, because you can’t script sincerity. “It’s not that hard to notice when you’re dealing with a customer support rep who is less than sincere. They tend to say some of the same things over and over, such as, ‘I can understand why you would feel that way and we are sorry for your inconvenience.’ It’s as if they are reading from a script… because most of the time they are. I actually had one customer service representative repeat that phrase so many times that I asked them to not to say it anymore.
“They aren’t really sorry. At least they don’t appear to be. What they appear to be doing is regurgitating the responses they learned in their customer service training classes or what’s printed on a piece of paper. Maybe they really are sincere; but their company forces them to appear to be insincere, because they are required to go by the script.
2. Call center scripts aren’t always suitable for every customer interaction. “For many customer service organizations, call center scripts are essential. They help to ensure consistency in detail and messaging, reduce errors, fill in gaps in training and the lack of in-depth product knowledge, and help new reps build confidence. Scripts also help to deal with the high employee turnover rate that plagues some customer service organizations–there isn’t always time for in-depth training. Scripts are training wheels, guides to proper customer interaction, and a valuable internal knowledge base.
“But what about the customer experience? With the focus on taking a people-first approach to customer service and building better customer relationships, do call center scripts really have a place? Reciting scripts and sticking to a predefined path through the customer experience often comes off as rigid and frustrating, and using them may just prevent reps developing any rapport with or empathy for the customer.” – Anton de Young, You don’t always need call center scripts, Zendesk; Twitter: @zendesk
3. Allow for flexibility but provide scripts when needed to ensure compliance and support productivity. “Script nothing.’ It’s sexy to recommend this soundbite-friendly approach (and I tend to lean more in this direction than the other), but there are two problems here. First, consider all the time you’re wasting when you require employees to repeatedly reinvent what doesn’t need to be reinvented.
“The second problem with anti-scripting extremism is that there are specific areas in most organizations (certainly this is true more for some industries than others) where scripting is essential: pharmacy and medical situations, security and safety related situations, government and ethically mandated privacy related situations, and others.” – Micah Solomon, Wrongheaded Customer Service Advice To Reject (And Better Advice To Embrace), MicahSolomon.com; Twitter: @micahsolomon
4. Use call recordings to develop effective and natural-sounding scripts. “Many companies use call recordings to identify problems, evaluate performance, collect statistical data, and so on consumer conversations. You can also use it to build and refine scripts, so they sound natural and conversational.” – How to Create the Perfect Phone Script, Unicom; Twitter: @unicomcorp
5. Integrate practices of best-performing agents into scripts. “Call scripts can also play a major role in improving overall productivity and customer satisfaction level. The management can monitor the calls of the best-performing agents and then they can incorporate those best practices in their call center scripts.
“By following this approach all the customers will get the same service and it will also improve the performance of low-performing agents.” – 6 Secrets To Create An Effective Call Script For Your Contact Center, Tentacle; Twitter: @tentacle_cloud
6. Use call center scripts to reduce training time and agent turnover. “Because your call center agents can use call center scripts to learn your processes on the job and keep the script as a guide, they won’t have to spend as much time in training sessions.
“If used wisely, call scripting can also help reduce agent turnover. With a call center script as a guide, your agents won’t feel pressured to learn all of your processes and be able to recite them back to you and the customer.” – David Wise, Seven Benefits of Call Center Scripts, Avoxi; Twitter: @AVOXI
7. Use call center scripts to provide a consistent customer experience. “A call center script will ensure that your customers will get the same response when they call with a question or issue, no matter which agent answers the phone. Scripting ensures that your brand’s core messages, values, and goals are the foundation of every interaction. By maintaining this level of consistency, all of your customers will have a similar, positive experience with your brand.” – Brittany Wilhelms, 6 Benefits of Call Center Scripts, Call Forwarding; Twitter: @call_forwarding
8. Write multiple possible scenarios into every script. “What might callers want when contacting your business? Create easy paths for every possible scenario. Is someone calling for an appointment? For information on a product? For your address? For an emergency? For pricing? You get the picture.
“The fact is, sometimes people call your business unsure of what it is they really need. Or they may be calling for one thing, but then realize they need something else while they are on the phone. This makes writing multiple possibilities into your script essential.” – Nick DAlleva, Don’t trip on your script! 6 call center scripting do’s and dont’s, Specialty Answering Services; Twitter: @SpecialtyAnswer
9. Understand customers’ primary fears before writing scripts. “Before a good script can be written you first need to understand what the primary fears are of the receiver…the customer. Whether you are making an inbound or an outbound call, they both require careful step by step planning on how to help your agent get through the call professionally, personably and results oriented.
“Throughout the years I have had many opportunities to visit various companies and assess their call center. Many of my assessments have identified two primary weaknesses in the agent’s call guides (scripts) that need greater attention. Most scripts do not provide enough focus in the flow to allow agents to easily channel from Introduction to their Post Close. Typically it’s expected that the agent, “think out of the box” but in reality that is not always possible particularly when the agent is new. A poor delivery will ultimately cause a bad reflection on your company and thus causing a decline in sales and in your customer retention.” – Kathy Sisk, The Art of Script Writing, Contact Center World; Twitter: @rajwadhwani
10. Scripts that are too flexible can result in miscommunication. “On the other end of the spectrum is the new trend in the contact/call center. Instead of a formal script, write a loose set of guidelines to nudge the conversation down a certain path. These guidelines give ample flexibility to the agent to use their judgement when responding to the customer’s questions, complaints, and concerns. Generally, a flexible call script will sound more natural and fluid, but that is not always a good thing. Without clear responses to questions, agents can distribute misinformation, stumble over their words, and portray the company in a less than favorable way.” – Writing A Contact/Call Center Script For Business Goals, Mindsight; Twitter: @GoMindsight
11. Leverage scripts for agent training but do so lightly to avoid creating dependency. “If you or someone on your team is new to the role, positive scripting can be an incredibly useful training tool. Scripts serve as a starting point, helping new customer service or customer success professionals learn the ropes and better understand the flow of a positive customer interaction.
“But even at this early stage, scripts should be used lightly. To prevent dependency, you might provide general bullet points instead of a long, phrase-by-phrase document. This ensures that the person has enough information to provide an accurate, helpful solution, while limiting the level of standardization.” – Carly Stec, The Do’s and Don’ts of Positive Scripting for Customer Service, HubSpot; Twitter: @HubSpot
12. Develop scripts that include key elements from greetings to thanking the customer at the call’s conclusion. “Customers and potential customers of an organization frequently call designated customer service telephone numbers to make inquiries about a company’s goods, services or operation. Here’s a simple customer service telephone script to ensure customer service personnel are efficient at collecting relevant customer information while remaining friendly and professional.
13. Develop scripts that lead to action. “Design your script so that it leads to action. Ask yourself: do you want to book an appointment, make a sale, or simply respond to a phone call from your office. If you are a medical provider, define your emergencies clearly so that the call center agents can respond appropriately.” – How to Craft an Effective Answering Service Call Center Script, Answer Excellence
14. Reword negative phrases into positives. “In your call center script, consider rewording negative phrases into positive action. For example: ‘The product will be available in January. I can go ahead and order it for you right now if you’d like so you’ll be one of the first to receive it.’ Call center best practices include using more positive language and finding ways to give more information to the caller.” – Call Center Best Practices: 6 Things A Rep Should Never Say, Salesforce; Twitter: @salesforce
15. Highlight important commands and instructions to aid compliance. “When you add key bits of information into the script that the advisor must say, e.g. for regulatory reasons, it’s good practice to highlight these. This is because advisors will likely get to the stage where they use the script as a guideline, but the highlight will reinforce the important of the text.” – How to Develop the Best Contact Centre Script, Call Centre Helper; Twitter: @callcentrehelp
16. Use personalization. “Unless you are cold calling and know nothing about your leads except their phone numbers, use personalization in your call scripts straight away. First of all, refer to your contacts by their names. This way you’re bringing in some familiarity and trust to the conversation. Next, try to analyze what their pain points might be, basing on their position, a company they work at etc. Your leads need to have a feeling as if your offer and an entire conversation have been customized exclusively for them.” – Olga Milevska, These 5 Simple Call Script Techniques Can Easily Win New Customers, Zingtree; Twitter: @_zingtree
17. Have agents practice delivering scripts until it feels natural. “Some scripts need to be read word-for-word. It may be a necessity to avoid confusion, to handle complex info, to cover legal requirements, etc. Those situations aside, mostly we try to ensure that agents are able to deliver the script in their own words. After all, the point is to make specific points and follow specific best practices, right? Verbatim or not, the best way to come across as sincere and engaged with customers is to practice the delivery so that tone of voice, pacing, and word emphasis all sound natural.” – 6 Tips for Delivering an Authentic Call Center Script, The Connection; Twitter: @TheConnectionCC
18. Provide agents with empathy statements. “Effective customer service agents of any type need to be empathetic. And that’s not something you can teach. You have to hire for it.
“But you can teach your call center agents effective ways to signal their empathy.
“There are many ways to do this. Call Centre Helper has a great list of 18 empathy statements to use in your call center training. You may notice that they have a lot of things in common:
“If your call center agents can do those things, you’ll have a great customer service team.
“Of course, just teaching these phrases and concepts in training isn’t enough. Your team needs to actually use them. Which means you’ll need good scripts as well as practice.” – Dann Albright, Embrace Active Learning (and 7 More Call Center Training Tips), Continu; Twitter: @continu
19. While you can provide guidance in the form of empathy statements, keep in mind that you can’t script empathy. “’You can’t script empathy,’ says Bruce Temkin, managing partner of Temkin Group, a customer experience consultancy in Boston. ‘The right way to do it is to teach the agents about why you’re trying to show empathy, what is it, and why is it important.’
“For empathy to be genuine, Temkin says. the agents must have autonomy over how they respond, and choose what course of action to take and what words to say. After all, even the best actor will sound wooden after 10 repetitions of a similar script.” – Bruce Temkin, as told to Katherine Reynolds Lewis, Dear Customer Service Centers, Please Stop It With the Scripted Empathy, Fortune; Twitter: @FortuneMagazine
20 Use call monitoring to tweak scripts over time as issues or new situations emerge. “Your agents need to be given all available tools for customer interaction success, and that begins with the scripts they are trained to work from. Significant time and money should be spent on developing scripts as well as tweaking them as calls are monitored and issues become evident.” – 11 Call Center Quality Assurance Guidelines, Scorebuddy; Twitter: @score_buddy
21. Use scripts to augment, rather than replace, agent training. “Hiring great talent is just the first step. To keep your top employees at the top of their games, training is vital. Don’t just give new hires scripts and plunk them down in front of a computer. Rather, provide regular training sessions that focus on customer care as an ever-evolving skill. Keep employees abreast of the latest developments in customer service trends and best practices, and make sure they stay in touch with any shifts in branding or messaging.
“Training can also be beneficial in terms of employee morale. As Terri Maxwell notes at the Working Solutions Blog, regular training gives your reps a much-needed respite from the phones.” – Call center best practices for engaging customers, Adecco; Twitter: @AdeccoUSA
22. Ensure that agents have a good understanding of customers’ needs so they can better customize and personalize responses. “Call center agents who have a good understanding of the customer’s needs and can personalize their interactions are more effective than those who do not. The more information on-hand; the better. This can include purchasing history, caller demographics, previous call recordings, voicemails, emails and social media postings. Agents with access to this information have better insight into the customer and are able to provide more personalized service.
“Performance support can help: Few things are more frustrating to both customers and agents than not having access to the information necessary to resolve an issue. With performance support, agents have quick and easy access to comprehensive information about the customer while on the call and can tailor the conversation to the customer’s specific needs, offer the best solution, and seal the deal faster.” – Francine Haliva, 5 Best Practices for Call Center Agents to Drive Sales, Kryon; Twitter: @KryonSystems
23. Rely on customer service technology rather than expecting agents to memorize many scripts. “Investing in customer service technology will help your agent to work efficiently. There are some software platforms in which you can create a script which can easily be accessed and used by agents. Memorizing all scripts for all cases won’t help.” – Rafi Chowdhury, Things to Improve your Call Center Script, RafiChowdhury.com; Twitter: @_rafichowdhury
24. Empower agents to problem-solve during nuanced interactions. “Basic call center training should prepare employees for the new customer service normal: where agents deliver more personalized interactions. Avoid training agents to solve common problems with common solutions or call center training conversation scripts. Instead—empower agents to relationally connect with unique customers with unpredictable issues. This means training on ideas including emotional intelligence, active listening, and problem-solving to prepare agents for deeper, more nuanced interactions.” – Rachel Saltsgaver, Rethinking the Call Center: Customer-First Training, Lessonly; Twitter: @lessonly
25. Compare quality scores and other metrics of scripted and non-scripted conversations to identify shortcomings and refine scripts. “Once the script has been role-played and advisors have become familiar with the process, it is time to implement it. But it is perhaps best to implement the script with a small number of advisors to begin with.
“This approach will highlight any issues with the script before it comes the norm, while providing detail into how satisfied your customers are with your script.” – Positive Scripting for Customer Service, Call Centre Helper; Twitter: @callcentrehelp
What are the best practices your company employs to get better results with call center scripts?
Learn what Forrester believes to be the 3 biggest customer service trends of 2021