“(Don’t) Stick to the Script”

June 20, 2014 • communication maven
I trained in theater for a whole two semesters at the prestigious Waubonsee Community College, so I know a little something about how important it is to memorize lines. But here’s the thing- drama is written as a representation of life. Talking to someone on the phone is not a representation, it is real life! It’s easy to tell whether the person on the other end of the line is being genuine or just reciting a script. And I don’t know about anyone else, but it really bothers me to be forced into canned dialogue. Worse still is when the questions are designed to lead you into the response they’re looking for, as in, “Wouldn’t you feel great about getting a lower price on your monthly bill?” Of course they’re expecting me to answer yes, and what other option do I really have? These situations usually come up in phone calls that are sales-oriented, but I think the principle applies to all business calls.

The biggest guideline that dictates my phone presence is to be real. When you can’t see the person you’re talking to, it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that he or she has feelings, opinions, and possibly eighty other things going on in life besides what you are currently discussing. Feeding someone lines without caring for their reaction can really alienate them. I, for one, feel pretty alienated when telemarketers open with asking for my name, then after I reply with “Meggie” they rush on, “Okay, Megan, I’m calling today because…” Meeting someone in “real life” usually involves getting their name straight, and most people would rather be spoken to like a friend than a business proposition.

In our line of service, I get a lot of calls from people who are in unfortunate situations that can be very stressful. During that initial call, there are quite a few pieces of information that we look to get from them, and it’s possible to run through the list just to check off boxes on the intake form. However, it’s much more helpful to treat the questionnaire like a conversation. Whether a client is calling in times of distress or just to get a feel for your company’s personality, speaking to them like a real human being lets them know your business has a culture based on personal interaction, and values meeting their true needs.

All this isn’t to say it’s a bad thing to be purposeful with your telephone interactions. Having standardized language for customer calls ensures that you sound professional and helps you acquire necessary information. Just keep the customer’s mind in mind! Flawlessly reciting pre-planned dialogue is great if you’re doing Shakespeare, but can leave customers with the feeling that your business relationship is “not to be.”