A modern contact centre is a complex place. You see, agents have many different tasks to complete. And the best practices for fulfilling their duties are ever-changing. How to best serve customers then evolves with new consumer demands and new technology.
In our call centre series, we looked at some of the changes taking place at modern hubs. Furthermore, we examined the types of calls that centres deal with, and how they’re evolving. This latest post concentrates on the telephony element of a contact centre’s operation. Specifically, it looks at one aspect of the calls that contact centres make and receive. That aspect is the scripting that may or may not go into those calls.
We’re going to explain what call scripting is and why contact centres may use it as a tactic. Then, we’ll drill down into how prevalent call scripting is and why. Finally, we’re going to examine any changes in call scripting usage. That will help predict how call scripts will be used in the coming years.
What is Call Scripting & What Benefits Does it Offer Contact Centres?
Contact centres deal with a high volume of calls on a daily basis. As well as the quality of service, how quickly calls get resolved is also a consideration. There’s often pressure on agents to be as efficient as possible in working through calls. When we spoke to David Rolf at Cymphony, he explained that some agents could take as many as 30 calls per hour.
With call volumes as high as that, contact centres want to maximize efficiency. Call scripting is precisely such a tactic. As the name suggests, call scripting is when interactions between agents and customers get planned in advance. Questions agents must ask or answers they should give are predetermined.
Now, the degree to which call scripting is possible depends upon the nature of a call. Firstly, scripts are often more relevant to outbound calling. That’s because an agent knows the purpose of the contact in advance. With an inbound call, it’s usually only the caller who knows the topic. The responses agents should give to different queries, though, can still get scripted.
There are a range of reasons why contact centres do use call scripting:
- To aid consistency
- To boost efficiency and speed of call handling
- To make call evaluation simpler
- To reduce training time and complexity
- For centre-wide compliance
With set scripts in place, a contact centre can be sure that callers are getting a consistent service. By defining the answers agents give, operators know that each caller gets told the same thing. Crucially, customers won’t get frustrated at getting conflicting information if they call the centre more than once.
As mentioned above, call scripting can also help speed up call handling. A script, or prompts, are a ready source of information for an agent. With the right information available to them, operators can answer callers’ questions faster. Indeed, they won’t have to waste time searching for solutions or information to give to each customer.
If your agents’ responses are scripted, analysing and comparing calls is also simpler. Scripts give the conversations carried out by agents more structure. That makes it more straightforward to utilise audio as data and assess processes.
But let’s face it, the turnover of staff in contact centres is often high. We’ll look into this and how centres try to aid staff retention in a later post. However, with high turnover, new agents have to get hired and onboarded frequently. And call scripting speeds up the training element of onboarding. An agent who uses scripted responses doesn’t need an encyclopedic knowledge of products or processes.
What’s more, Many contact centres are subject to legislation and regulation. Depending on the fields or clients they serve, what agents say, and how they say it may get strictly monitored. With a script, operators can be confident that all agents are complying with the relevant rules. They have more control over precisely what their agents are saying.
How Prevalent is Call Scripting in the Modern Contact Centre?
Given the advantages explained above, it’s little surprise that call scripting gets employed by many contact centres. An industry survey from 2018 found that 52.7% of centres used call scripting technology. That same study revealed that of the 47.3% of centres that didn’t, 11.7% had the tech on their “wish list”. While call scripting has been around for a while, then, many centres still see it as a way to improve operations in the future. Exactly the type of scripting those centres are “wishing” for, however, may not be quite as you expect. That’s something we’ll discuss a little later.
Both Cymphony and FM Outsource reported that they use some form of call scripting. What’s even more interesting is that usage of call scripting seems to be on the rise. When you compare the survey mentioned above to one from 2016, there’s an over 4% rise in the proportion of centres that script calls:
Source: Call Centre Helper
That suggests that the benefits of call scripting still resonate with contact centres. Those benefits are offset, though, by a few notable drawbacks. Most notable amongst the cons of scripting is how the process is seen by consumers.
What do Consumers Think About Call Scripting?
As discussed, scripted calls aid productivity and efficiency in a contact centre. But there’s an argument that they don’t boost quality. From a customer’s point of view, scripting can diminish the value provided by a support call, sounding “robotic” or “stiff” in tone. And as you can appreciate, robots, so far anyway, aren’t that good at creating rapport.
In this way, customers come to feel that agents only say what they’re being told. They don’t think that the advisors listen or respond to what they’re necessarily saying to them. When customers feel that way, it’s easy for them to get frustrated or angry.
In fact, the Software Advice website carried out a couple of illuminating surveys on the topic. In 2014, they found that 69% of respondents thought unscripted calls improved their experience. In 2018, an updated report showed that 78% of customers had the same opinion.
Source: Software Advice
The degree to which customers feel unscripted calls improve their experience is also fascinating. In the 2018 report, 34% of those surveyed reported that experience “improves tremendously”. That’s as opposed to 15% of people who gave the same response in 2014. So consumers clearly favour a more natural conversation with agents.
How, though, can those insights into consumer preferences align with the increased uptake of call scripting? The answer lies in precisely how modern centres are implementing the process.
How Are Contact Centres Responding?
You see, the phrase “call scripting” is actually a little misleading. It evokes ideas of agents reading word for word from a long, formulaic document. The truth is that no modern call centre would use such an inefficient process. When centres say they script calls, what they mean is that they use a form of scripting to support agents.
Jack Barmby, Founder of FM Outsource, summed things up well. Jack told us he doesn’t “particularly like the idea of proscriptive scripts for agents”. From Jack’s point of view, such scripts get in the way of valuable human connection and contact.
Therefore, the “scripting” FM Outsource use is more about prompts and supportive information. When an agent answers a call, they have a process to follow. There’s certain information they must give and questions they should ask. But they get reminded of those by the prompts delivered via the centre’s contact system.
Which prompts agents see gets dictated by the line a customer called or the interactive voice response (IVR) options they chose. Put simply, that means which number they pressed or voice command they gave when navigating the centre’s call system. Such a solution, therefore, offers all the benefits of scripting. It doesn’t, though, turn agents into robots who don’t listen to callers.
This version of “guided scripting” is the type of solution getting traction industry-wide. Call Centre Helper’s ‘What are Contact Centres Doing’ survey supports that contention. It discovered that 42.4% of call centres used “guided scripting or visual flows”.
Modern call scripting, then, is intelligent and aligns with consumer preferences. It’s also a process only likely to improve over time. Yes, because AI increasingly supports software solutions that deliver guided scripting.
Machine learning and natural language processing are the areas of AI of most benefit. Those processes give software solutions the ability to understand conversations better. As such, prompts and information delivered to agents will get more relevant for each call.
Call Scripting & Contact Centres – An Evolving Relationship
So the relationship between contact centres and call scripting is a nuanced one. Call scripting has a plethora of benefits to centres. Compliance is easier to manage, agents have more support, and training doesn’t have to be as extensive.
Such advantages explain why most contact centres do persist in scripting calls. Consumer attitudes to scripting, though, are mixed at best. Many customers feel that ‘robotic’, ‘stiff’ scripted calls negatively impact their service experience.
Modern call centres, as a result, are striking a balance. They must walk a tightrope between efficiency and customer experience. That’s why an increasing number of centres use guided scripting or prompt-based systems. These solutions offer the benefits of call scripting without the principal drawbacks. It’s one more example of tech and consumer demands reshaping the contact centre niche.
Originally published Jun 25, 2020, updated Jan 16, 2023