Live Chat: To script or not to script

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Chat scripts are a handy tool, especially for chat agents who find themselves often responding to related customer inquiries. Saving pre-formulated responses allow live chat agents to shorten response times, cut down on repetitive typing, and prevent sneaky typos that arise in tandem with chat volume. Chat scripts, or canned responses, help companies ensure quality control, implement precise language for optimal results, and increase customer happiness.

This same automation that streamlines the chat conversation can come with a cost. By delivering an identical chat script to multiple customers, companies risk losing the personal edge that live chat has over other customer support channels, such as chatbots or email. A study by Software Advice shows that 84% of customers reported their experience improved more than slightly when a chat agent did not implement a script.

The detriment of live chat scripts depends on the type of customer support a company provides. The success of a company that uses live chat as a sales tool, often entailing longer handle times, hinges on the ability of live chat agents to build rapport. Think about the same scenario in a brick-and-mortar store. A customer would be less likely to buy an item from a sales associate that provides identical service to each customer. 

That said, an e-commerce company that uses live chat to handle order inquiries, provide product information, and mitigate customer complaints may be able to implement chat scripts without negatively impacting customer satisfaction. In other words, the success of sales relies on personalization, and the success of support builds on a swift and satisfactory resolution. 

The possibility of damaging precious customer relationships through live chat scripts has caused some companies to steer clear of canned responses altogether. Some companies such as Dermstore and ABT have a “no chat scripts, now or ever!” policy, preferring a highly personalized experience for customer support. 

For those companies that tow a moderate line when it comes to canned responses, it is crucial to implement chat scripts with savvy. Comm100 suggests using chat scripts best fits for proactive conversations. Whether a live chat agent is engaging a hesitant shopper, a repeat customer, or someone lingering on a specific product page, a properly scripted proactive chat can add value to a company’s chat channel. According to a recent Forrester report, live chat can increase return on investment by 15%.

One RapportBoost client, Jenny Craig USA, uses chat scripts to guide customer conversations rather than to determine their course. By providing chat agents with scenarios that draw from fruitful customer conversations, Jenny Craig’s agents have a handhold when engaging customers, but still, have the liberty to go off script as needed.

Not all companies implement chat scripts with success. One such example from an Amazon.com sellers forum shows an improperly utilized chat transcript. On multiple occasions, the customer support agent forgot to insert their name into placeholders within the script, [My name]. Also, when the customer support agent deviated from the chat script, the grammar and spelling of the conversation diminished, alerting the customer that the agent followed a templated scenario up to that point. The customer notes that the total time to resolution was 15 minutes, a duration that most customers may not endure.

One may think that implementing a chat script is as simple as copy and paste, but the above example shows that the successful use of chat scripts is a skill unto itself. Successful use of chat scripts requires agents to master several techniques. Chat agents may have to edit or truncate canned responses on the fly to ensure consistency of the conversation. In addition, for successful implementation of scripts, customer support agents need to amend the language to match the style of the customer. In the previous example, the customer support agent uses the phrase ‘charge-back’ in response to the customer’s notification of a duplicate charge. The mismatch created confusion between the chat agent and the customer.

In addition to the writing skills, chat agents must master to successfully use scripts, choosing the appropriate text for a given scenario is a skill unto itself. One common error made by chat agents using scripts is opening with an introduction rather than responding to a customer’s inquiry. Often, customers initiate a response with a concern, such as, “Hi, I’d like to be refunded for shipping because my order arrived late.” A live chat agent may respond with a scripted introduction, such as, “Hi, [Customer Name]. My name is [Chat Agent Name]. How may I assist you today?” In this case, the response is incorrect because the customer already voiced their concern. A more appropriate canned response would be, “Hi [Customer Name]. Thank you for getting in touch. I can most certainly help you with that. Could you provide me with an order number?” Merely choosing the appropriate response can make the difference between a rapport-building, personalized conversation, and one that leaves a customer wondering if they interacted with a human or a bot. 

Companies may find that when chat agents use scripts correctly, the improvement in chat channel benchmarks outweighs the possible harm of canned responses. With appropriate training, chat scripts can improve customer satisfaction, decrease the number of reactions to resolution, and increase ticket volume without increasing stress. Any solution that has the potential to create a frictionless environment for live chat agents while boosting the efficiency of a customer support channel is undoubtedly worth consideration. 

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Dr. Michael Housman

About Dr. Michael Housman

Michael has spent his entire career applying state-of-the-art statistical methodologies and econometric techniques to large data-sets in order to drive organizational decision-making and helping companies operate more effectively. Prior to founding RapportBoost.AI, he was the Chief Analytics Officer at Evolv (acquired by Cornerstone OnDemand for $42M in 2015) where he helped architect a machine learning platform capable of mining databases consisting of hundreds of millions of employee records. He was named a 2014 game changer by Workforce magazine for his work. Michael is currently an equity advisor for a half-dozen technology companies based out of the San Francisco bay area: hiQ Labs, Bakround, Interviewed, Performiture, Tenacity, Homebase, and States Title. He was on Tony’s advisory board at Boopsie from 2012 onward. Michael is a noted public speaker and has published his work in a variety of peer-reviewed journals and has had his research profiled by The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and The Atlantic. Dr. Housman received his A.M. and Ph.D. in Applied Economics and Managerial Science from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and his A.B. from Harvard University.