Organizations that are providing scripts for their customer-facing employees need to keep one thing in mind: Customers are very savvy in recognizing a scripted interaction and don't always like it.
According to Professor Don Wardell, who chairs the department of operations and information systems at Utah's David Eccles School of Business, customers are highly differentiating. Wardell, who was one of a team of researchers behind two studies into the impact of scripted conversations, said customers can tell the difference even when it comes to slightly scripted conversations. "We figured they would be able to tell if an interaction is highly scripted, but didn't know how refined they could be," Wardell said in an interview.
Wardell said that while customers are very aware when they're being read to from a script, they don't mind as long as this is a standardized interaction, for example when checking into a hotel. Wardell explained that in such cases, customers are aware of the steps they need to take, and do not need a personalized interaction.
However, they want frontline employees to go off script and speak with them directly when they are looking for specific and customized information, for example a restaurant recommendation from a hotel concierge. Wardell said when such interactions are scripted, customers feel they're not getting the service quality they would like.
While scripting will continue taking place, Wardell pointed out that this should not replace training. "Organizations are using scripts to make sure their employees are covering everything," he said. Wardell continued that such a practice shouldn't be used in lieu of extensive training. Instead, organizations should consider increasing employee training and relaxing their scripts. "If an employee is seasoned, he can conduct a more natural interaction while newer employees [need to be helped] to cover the basics," he said.
Further, employees don't like using scripts, preferring to respond to customers without constraints. Wardell said employees feel they can offer the best level of service when they understand what the customer is saying and tailor their responses to that particular communication. "There are scripts that are well thought out to allow the employee to go off script when needed," Wardell noted.
While scripting might not be ideal in all circumstances, Wardell said organizations shouldn't remove it altogether. Instead, they should invest in training employees who can better understand particular customers and their needs and go off script when the circumstance requires it.