How to Deal with an Off-Script Customer Service Call

Lauren Krause
Posted by in Customer Service

For companies that use organized service scripts, an off-script call can be confusing and difficult to handle. Without an internal protocol, agents may struggle to find the correct words and identify acceptable solutions. Do not wait until a call happens to plan a strategy; prepare in advance to improve overall customer communication.

After the recent and highly publicized Comcast service failure, in which a representative was unnecessarily aggressive with a caller, customer service is in the limelight. In the hopes of avoiding a similarly embarrassing situation with an off-script call, many companies are taking a closer look at their own service departments. One crucial area of investigation is the way agents are empowered to deal with an off-script call.

When you are looking to improve your off-script customer service calls, the first place to start is with company policy. This step is crucial for decision-makers and agents alike; both groups should have a concise understanding of the existing process. How much autonomy is given to individual agents when the issue does not fit into the script? Are they authorized to design custom solutions to satisfy a customer's needs? Is the scripted language a hard requirement, or do agents have the freedom to answer questions in their own words? If the answer to these questions is no, it may be time to revisit your script policies to empower agents. After all, with no wiggle room, agents are more likely to get in trouble with an off-script call.

Internal change often takes time. While this is happening, individual agents can take steps to prepare for difficult conversations. During an off-script call, it is crucial to treat the customer with respect and kindness. Customers often respond negatively to robotic or inauthentic agents who say empty phrases like, "I know how you feel," when it is clear the opposite is true. Instead, respond with genuine empathy and avoid meaningless platitudes.

Many customers avoid calling a service department until they are frustrated, angry, irritated or unhappy. At the very least, they are displeased or confused. Service scripts often shift responsibility for the program away from the company, possibly angering callers in the process. During an off-script call, alleviate some of the tension and negative emotion by accepting responsibility when appropriate. Alternatively, offer a straightforward explanation.

As you deal with a customer's issue, it is important to understand the problem. All too often, service agents check out mentally during a call, leaving callers feeling like they are talking to a wall. Demonstrate you are listening by mirroring the problem back to the customer; this step also ensures you have a thorough understanding of the issue.

When it comes to providing a solution to the customer, your company guidelines are often the deciding factor. If policy is not clear, speak to your supervisor about what you are authorized to do. During a call that has no clear solution, explain to the customer you are limited by company policy but will investigate the issue and call back. Then, follow through with your promise.

Dealing with an off-script call is a tricky proposition. By researching your company's policies in advance and speaking to customers with respect and empathy, you can handle each instance to the caller's satisfaction.


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