Why the perfect script does not work

10th November 2014
Shaping behaviour is limited- Have a nice day.

What matters when we meet people? How do we want them to think of, act upon and remember us? The phrase ‘Have a nice day’ is a common way of saying good bye. The way we say it and its context can make it take on multiple, often less than positive, meanings. One bank robber in the USA was considered cool for his ransom note demands having a smiley face with ‘ You are being robbed. Thank you and have a nice day’. Whereas many of us have experienced the formulaic scripted version to mask the most perfunctory of services.

The point is, saying it like you mean it is more important than the words themselves in much of communication. This brings me onto the more complex matter of customer service provision and an up sell ‘conversation’ a business wanted to have with their customers.

A business wanted to drive some new business and through the help of an expensive consultancy were given a script for all reception staff to memorise and use every time a customer was in the building. The reception staff were a little non plussed. They either stuck to the script in a child like nativity play remembering the lines is enough kind of way or they rejected the sales drive message all together.

So why did a generic and yet carefully thought out script not work? Firstly if we take a classical conditioning approach we can assume that if the script is learned and repeated then

‘If I do this, I will get the response I want every time’.

This is an assumption and rejecting personal experience and consciousness itself. In other words it is treating the conversation and its outcome as a linear approach where all human beings learn, communicate and are motivated in the same way.

The classical conditioning research of BF Skinner is subject to much debate and in this case rote learning a script whilst providing all the necessary information got lost in non verbal incongruence when spoken and the script was dropped in a few weeks. There are many reasons why this failed and one reason was the gap between how the reception staff perceived their relationship with their customers and the words of the script it self.

These are three reasons why a perfect script is not enough;

1) No matter the quality of the script, if you do not believe in what you are saying the message is lost.

2) Over rehearsal leads to inflections in the wrong place or a flat, dull tone of voice. In other words, I am just getting the words out in one breath.

3) People like choices and like to ask questions. A rigid script reduces adaptive communication skills . The script model is running the conversation rather than the other way around and thinking outside the model can be more difficult especially if circumstances change suddenly.

Ultimately the less decision making power you give your people, the less they will make decisions. Sticking dogmatically to a script reduces their ability to make decisions when sales conversations change. If there is a need for a cold calling funnel of lead generation then a first 15 second script may help. I say may, many people regard these calls as nuisance despite there being some benefits doing business with them. Those that engage like the clarity, authenticity and understanding that is brought by the caller rather than their ability to repeat words.

Best wishes


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