Grow your customer service team beyond scripts and SOP’s


When your customer is interacting with you at a distance, meaning not face-to-face, there is a false promise of being able to script the optimal response.

You see examples of this off-line, too, but let’s focus on the online interactions because it’s so tempting to try and hide it there.

Hi, I’m Patrick Pitman, and I want to talk about an important mistake, let’s call it a myth, that you can script optimal, world-class, customer service on-line.

So you’ve got a website for ordering, and maybe people also call you and order.

Because the prospective customer cannot view the props or crutches we keep at-hand, you may be tempted to build an array of crutches — be they for phone or live chat operators or email or SMS replies.

Canned replies, automated welcome series, chat bots, phone scripts all can bring consistency to your messaging.

We love consistency. We relish best practices, especially for the lower-paid, often entry-level ‘reps’.

But when you assume the customer service team follows scripts or SOP’s and then you hire and direct people with that assumption, watch out.

My friend Michael of Search Scientists framed the myth this way:

‘You can rely on second-rate talent if you use a customer service SOP.’

Yes, that is a myth!

To be clear, we create and maintain customer service SOP’s, or Standard Operating Procedures in the businesses I work in. We do write down and review our optimal response to common issues. We write canned responses.

But that’s not enough. And without sufficient training and conscious intent, such crutches can make a customer incident worse.

If you are aiming for a world-class customer experience, you cannot afford second-rate talent drowning in scripts, feeling defensive, and compounding whatever problem the customer called about in the first place.

There will, inevitably, be customers that appear crazy (see my other video just about that).

Some will act like idiots, insist on what might appear to be ridiculous — and how you respond can transform the situation into a loyal relationship. Or, or it can blow up into an online PR disaster with reviews and retweets that take on a life of their own.

Invest in training customer service people to embrace your intent, your vision, your relationship-building understanding. Invite, insist they bring a conscious attitude and caring insight to every customer interaction. Hire for these attributes.

There’s more than one framework for how this is done, and I invite you to watch videos here to learn more.

But a notable example of someone else’s approach is Non-Violent Communication or NVC. Penny Wassman writes beautifully about how this approach can serve as a bridge when communicating between people in distress. At an entry-level understanding, NVC’s method serves as a first ‘bridge’ that is sort of scripted in terms of what, how, and who says what.

But that’s not enough to really realize the benefits, says Penny. There’s a second bridge, taking it to another level, where our communication leaves behind scripts and SOP’s. This is a bridge to a kind of human-to-human connection that feels much different and more affirming for both sides.

If I can summarize, it’s this: If your team doesn’t understand the underlying dynamics of a world-class customer experience, and the human attachment instincts and social cues that bolster it, they will be forever on edge, rigid, reading from scripts.

Don’t settle for that. Your customers will thank you.

Updated: May 3, 2024Array
Published: October 10, 2019

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