- By Keith Kirkpatrick
- March 22, 2022
Due to the vast array of options telecom providers offer their customers, interactions with customers traditionally have incorporated mechanical-sounding scripts, often beginning with IVR systems or artificial intelligence (AI) based-agents, and progressing to real agents. A few decades ago, this approach was somewhat necessary, given the way telecommunications businesses and their products were positioned.
For example, customers that purchased multi-service bundles likely purchased three or more distinct product types (television service, internet service, and telephony service) from a single telecommunications service provider. A customer service approach that used script to kick off a customer service inquiry or engagement usually would’ve asked for an account number, and then drilled down into a specific product or service type, many times in a robotic or monotonous way.
While the approach of narrowing down a customer’s inquiry to a specific product service can work, it is largely focused on making this journey more efficient and easier for the telecom provider, instead of the customer. However, it segments the process, and may not truly help the customer in the most efficient way.
A customer that calls their telecom provider about a particularly complex issue (such as configuring a router) may require a lengthy journey to get to the right technical service agent, as the customer may be forced to take several basic troubleshooting steps that simply won’t address the issue. Further, customers with multiple issues (either with the same product or across different product types) may need to make several inquiries to deal with each problem, instead of being able to explain all of their issues to a live agent, who can properly triage and line up the resources they need.
Ultimately, a rote, scripted approach to customer service can:
- Anger customers, particularly if they already know the specific problem they are having, and want to quickly address it without being forced to go through an IVR-based menu of scripted questions that don’t focus on their core issue. Further, scripted interactions between a live agent and a customer can also irritate customers, particularly if the agent is not allowed to go or comfortable with going ‘off-script’ to build affinity with a customer. Indeed, a representative reading directly from a script and taking the customer through a series of questions and steps is a sure way to erode customer goodwill.
- Reinforce the belief that a customer is “just a number,” particularly if the script does not include real personalization (such as incorporating customer journey information).
- Frustrate live CX agents, as they are unable to adjust to the customer’s needs, and often feel the brunt of customer anger. This can result in lower levels of job satisfaction over time, and greater staff attrition.
- Eliminate opportunities for organic cross-selling and upselling: Scripted cross-selling or upselling often comes across as forced, and if presented as a part of a mechanical script, may be dismissed out-of-hand by a frustrated customer simply seeking to get a problem solved.
Eliminating scripts can be thought of as an extension of taking a more customer-focused approach to interactions, beginning with actively listening to a customer’s issue, and then providing an appropriate, personalized, and genuine response or solution that is simple and convenient for the customer.
The following tactics should be used to empower customer service representatives to handle inquiries in a more natural, customer-centric manner:
Remove data silos
Making all product and customer information available to any agent, IVR, or AI system, so it can be quickly accessed without needing to follow a specific pathway to retrieve the information is key to eliminating scripts. Scripts are designed to segment the question into specific product types or service issues, and removing scripts requires removing the barriers to quickly accessing all customer, interaction, and product and service data, so that conversations between the agent and customer can be easily supported through the real-time availability of this data.
Serve relevant content to agents
In addition to data availability, smart organizations are selecting customer-interaction software platforms that can serve up relevant content to both the agent and the customer, so that they don’t need to hunt around for this information. Particularly in the case of live agent interactions, the ability to provide relevant product or customer interaction data while communicating with a customer in a natural way can provide the “human” touch that is often lacking in customer service interactions.
This is particularly important in the telecommunications industry, as today’s agents are being tasked with handling not only the provider’s own products and services, but may be called upon to troubleshoot adjacent products that are delivered via their infrastructure, such as television streaming services, music service, or even home-security products.
Improve training to ensure understanding, rather than memorization
Scripts are often used to help agents that are unfamiliar with or don’t understand the company’s products or services. While training agents to fully understand the company’s product and service mix takes more time and effort, the result is an agent that can more deftly navigate customer service inquiries, while also picking the right moment to upsell or cross-sell additional products in a consultative, supportive manner.
It’s not necessary for agents to be trained on the ins and outs of every possible product, but they should have a general understanding on how products work, and how they are interrelated within the telecommunication ecosystem. For example, an agent may not be familiar with each downloadable application that is available on each smart TV brand, but they should be familiar with and comfortable with explaining how apps generally work, how to install or uninstall them, and be familiar with where the help files or FAQs are usually located within each of these apps.
Provide guides, rather than scripts
Rather than trying to provide a word-for-word script (which can’t possibly cover the wide range of potential scenarios), guides can be used to provide general talking points, product notes, service notes (and promotions), and other relevant information that can make the interaction more personalized and natural. Further, these guides can also be structured to call out specific points or issues that absolutely must be mentioned (such as legal copy or disclaimers), so that interactions meet all compliance rules and regulations.
Perhaps most importantly, the back-end work of removing silos and enabling platforms to serve relevant data to agents can also be applied to AI-based digital assistants and chatbots, thereby improving the speed, efficiency, and effectiveness of these systems. Further, replays of live agent customer interactions can also be reviewed and analyzed to find best practices that can be applied to future agent interactions, as well as automated systems.
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