Why Scripts Fail

Did you ever call a customer service centre, only to be met with what sounded like an automaton, reciting the words of a script verbatim?

Or ask a question of a telesales person which wasn’t in their manual, only to hear them frantically rustling around while you’re left waiting?

Ever ask someone for help to be told, ‘I’m not responsible for that’,  ‘I’d need to speak to my manager about that’ or ‘I’m not authorised to do that’ and wonder what would happen if rather than being told to follow a script, they were given the room to do what was right and be responsible for the outcome?

What about the last flight you took, when you landed and taxied to the stand, to hear a member of the cabin crew ‘welcome’ you to your arrival airport over the loudspeaker, only for them to speak with zero sincerity and no feeling or humanity, using the same language and tone that they’d used with the last 3,000 passengers?

Or maybe you were told to prepare a sales script, to direct your customers down a certain path; only for that one customer to answer in a different way, a way unique to them, and then to be left scrambling for your sales manual, feeling flustered?

These are all examples of the effects of the inappropriate use of scripts in business; examples of why they fail and why they should be thrown away.

The problem with scripts is that they burden our thinking. For rather than listening with a clear and open mind, we listen with our next line already planned, regardless of the words spoken by the other person, and with the weight of the next question lying heavy on our ability to understand.

Consequently, scripts restrict the other person’s thinking too. So rather than having an open and liberated conversation, the actors play their part in a manufactured conversation that is governed by an agenda – usually the sales person’s – which then only reveals the surface of what could be a far deeper and more meaningful conversation.

As such, scripts stop us from being curious – from wanting to find out more and understand more about the other person. And they stop us from doing so in a way which is genuine and authentic and which encourages creative exploration.

But above all, the problem with scripts is that they stop us giving our customers everything we could and stop us from making a connection. After all, that’s what people want and what makes a difference. A real connection, with a real person.

So if you work in a call centre and pick up the phone to someone, talk to them as a human rather than a machine. If not, you may as well just use an automated service. If you have to give mandatory information, have a set of bullet points that contains that critical information but talk around them and use your own words and tone.

If you work in telesales, forget the manual with the scripted series of questions and answers. Sure, know your product or service inside out – but then when someone calls, delight them with the interest you show in them and the insights you can share for the product, service or organisation you represent.

If you manage a group or people, give them the room and freedom to make decisions and to make a connection. If there’s a financial implication, set the threshold high and then hold them responsible for the decisions they make. Allow them to work as if it were their own business. If you bind them to a narrow script, don’t be surprised if the only thing they do is work to that narrow script and nothing else – but it’s unlikely to delight them, you or your customers.

If you want to communicate to your customers do so with sincerity, heart and feeling. Tell them a story, make a joke, and make it relevant to their experience. Don’t just pass them off like one of a myriad of faceless consumers.

And if you’re a sales person preparing for a meeting, the key is not in preparing a script, but questions which can be tailored to the context – great questions – which motivate and stimulate free-flowing discussion; those which raise awareness to risks and consequences, benefits and rewards, and those which remove limiting beliefs.

The key though is to focus on making a connection – and you’ll never do that with a script.


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