Scripting a Better Work Environment for Your Agents

By David Michael Drenk

“Hal, can you transfer me to Dr. Smith?”

“I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

Attitudes about message scripting differ in the call center industry. Some call center managers and business owners want to make sure each call is scripted so tightly that there is no room for agents to make mistakes, but others don’t want to limit their agents’ ability to make decisions and deal with unusual situations.

Some clients require a strict protocol without deviation, but if you are a manager who considers your employees your biggest asset, you have the right idea. Fortunately, message scripting can actually make your agents’ lives easier in many ways without hindering their ability to use their skills.

Computers are great, but they aren’t as great as people. A blog or a photo posted on Facebook and emailed to an ever-growing list of friends doesn’t beat a one-on-one conversation.  Callers may not have time to chat about the weather when they contact your call center, but they do want someone to listen to what they have to say. Message scripting doesn’t have to be used to feed agents every line of a conversation; it also can be used in much simpler ways.

With scripting software, you can use “required” and “non-required” fields to control just how much of a message is scripted. If you make the important fields “required,” agents know which pieces of information a client insists upon, like a callback number or the caller’s last name, even if you aren’t dictating the whole conversation. This makes life easier for the agents because they are reminded when they skip a crucial field.

Scripts also can be used to validate data, such as making sure that a phone number isn’t missing any digits, an email address is in the correct format, or the number of items in an order isn’t outside of the minimum or maximum limit. Scripts can be designed to display helper text that lets agents know immediately when entries are invalid so the correct information is gathered while the caller is still on the phone.

“Hal, can you tell me who’s on-call?”

“I’m sorry, Dave. I don’t have enough information.”

Besides guiding the agent, message scripting can provide the agent with resources. Scripts can automatically pull information from Automatic Number Identification (ANI), directories, on-call schedules, and databases based on which number is being called, the time of day, caller responses, or options selected by the agent. These tools give agents information about the caller and your clients without making them take time to find it.

Scripts can present a client’s status or display information about who is on-call without making agents go to an on-call schedule. The message script can use this information to control what steps are taken, but it also can simply display the information so agents can use it in whatever way applies.

Another useful scripting tool is advanced data handling. Message scripting can handle complex math formulas, data comparisons, text manipulation, and date and time functions. Use scripts to total order quantities, apply discounts, calculate sales tax, and set the time for a callback reminder.

Why risk offending callers by asking their age when you can ask for their birth date and have the script determine if they are under 18 or over 65? Moreover, why not tell agents if the office is open instead of having agents compare the time to the office hours? If the office is in another time zone, your agents don’t need to remember to add or subtract an hour if the script does it for them.

Advanced data handling can save your agents a lot of time and let them focus on the caller.

“Hal, has the address of the Kansas office changed?”

“Dave, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

Remember the impression the Land of Oz made on Dorothy when she stepped out of her black-and-white house? How about adding a little color to your agents’ lives? A powder-blue background can let agents know which client accounts require extra care, and colored-coded text to distinguish between client information and dispatching instructions can make their jobs easier.

Agents often feel insulted when every piece of critical information is displayed in flashing red print.  However, if your agents know every time something new is added to an account it will be in forest-green text for three weeks, they’ll watch for that and won’t get stuck in a routine. Combine colors with calculations and you won’t have to tell agents that the client is gone for the day; the violet message box will say it without words.

“Hal, what if this had been an emergency?”

“Dave, quite honestly, I wouldn’t worry myself about that.”

Branching is a powerful scripting tool that can change the fields or information displayed based on a variety of conditions. If your message forms have labels like, “If yes, list why,” or, “If an emergency, get location,” you could use some branching. Scripting makes it easy to compare a caller’s response to a list of results, perform certain actions on specific days and at specific times, or simply display information relevant to the reason for the call.

Branching can be used to change the call flow, but in a less stringent way, it also can be used to simplify the information presented to agents. If you have a list of information that only needs to be gathered in emergencies, don’t make your agents sift through it on every call. Tie it to a button or a “yes or no” option, making it available to agents only when they need it.

Message scripting doesn’t have to be used to control your agents. Message scripting can be used to make their jobs easier without taking away their ability to use their talents. The tools are available to make a better work environment for your agents and better interactions with your callers.

“Hi, Dave, this is Krista. Sorry, Hal doesn’t have the best people skills. Dr. Smith is in surgery, but Dr. Johnson is covering for him. Do you want me to transfer you to Dr. Johnson, or would you like me to email your contact information to the office?”

“Go ahead and email my contact information. And thanks, Krista. It was nice talking with you.”

David Michael Drenk is a technical writer for Amtelco, where he writes software manuals and designs customized message scripts. David also has written for “Event DV” and “Wisconsin Engineer” magazines.

[From the February/March 2010 issue of AnswerStat magazine]