Call Scripting Comes of Age

By Alan Tucker

Scripting calls has long held the promise of being a labor-saving device and providing a method for addressing the particular needs of the call handling process. But it’s only been within the past few years that a marriage of technologies has resulted in tools reaching the market that make it possible for call scripting to fulfill the glowing predictions that have been made.

Now scripting makes it possible for call center agents to lead callers through the call process by requesting exactly the information the client wants. After calls are completed, the script continues the process by dispatching a message or delivering documentation of the services provided to the client.

Solution providers have incorporated the flexibility of Web page navigation and the power of database computing to develop scripting tools that can be used to generate anything from a simple name and phone number message to a complex order entry form. They’ve done this by turning the traditional message form into what is essentially a Web browser window. That simple change makes it possible to design message forms that automatically display call information, look up and retain associated client information, direct the soliciting of message content, and branch based on callers’ responses.

Along with the browser-based message form comes a toolbox of input objects – text fields, drop menus, check boxes, and push buttons – that are the building blocks of the actual message form. Each input object comes with assignable properties, such as text formatting, requiring input in a field and validation of that input before moving to the next field, multiple choice menus, and selectable dispatch methods.

“Scripting is very dynamic. It’s super powerful. It allows people who are not programmers to become programmers,” said Jason Decou, a systems engineer for Dexcomm. Located in Lafayette, LA, Dexcomm is a telemessaging service that focuses on processing calls for a range of clients, from funeral directors to doctors, as well as providing in-bound telemarketing services.

“Scripting is important. Because of scripting, you’re not confined to the limits of your ACD switch,” said Decou. “With a little bit of work, you can get exactly what you want.”

A call script needs to be well thought-out before the first screen is compiled. Then, after it has been tested in daily use, it can be revised and amended as needed to best serve its purpose.

“We have many clients, all with unique specifications, so scripting allows us to say, ‘Write out what you want us to say,’ and we can do it,” said Decou. “The client winds up getting exactly what they want because they know their situations. Scripting allows our agents to focus more on the specifics of calls rather than taking the correct message.”

Using a client call script is akin to surfing the Internet. On the Internet, Web pages branch from one topic to another, one page at a time, while hyperlinks lead to other Web pages and other topics. During a scripted call, the agent moves from question to question and branches from one topic to another, based on the responses received from the caller.

Jim Curcuru, operations manager and sales manager for Available Communications in the St. Louis suburb of Creve Coeur, MO, is implementing more call processing scripts every day. Available Communications serves a diverse customer base, with telemessaging clients, voice mail customers, and larger accounts with specific needs that expect more complex solutions. “We do a tremendous amount of scripting and would script 100 percent of calls if we could,” said Curcuru. “Anything over and above a basic message with name and number needs to be scripted. Scripting allows me to do quality call flow and it reduces errors because scripting keeps agents from free-flowing their way through a call,” said Curcuru.

“As soon as a client says ‘Here’s what I want you to say,’ or ‘Here are the questions I want you to ask,’ we say ‘You need scripting’,” Curcuru added. “Some of our clients want us to take applications over the phone and they want delivery of that document in real time. With scripting we can do that, and we’ll be doing more of that for people who want their information bulked up and sent to them in one file. We’ve reached a point now where we can start applying scripting to our smaller, ordering accounts,” said Curcuru. “That’s where we find the biggest bang for the buck.”

Joe Adam, telecommunications coordinator at Athens Regional Medical Center in Athens, GA, says that every week he finds more and better ways to script recurring tasks. Athens Regional, with 325 surgical and medical beds is the largest hospital in 14 counties east of Atlanta. Adam’s staff processes more than 6,000 calls a day. “We are migrating all of our code calls to a scripted format,” he said. “We’re forcing the operator who receives a code call to make specific choices based on information we present in the script. Then each screen changes to match the response the operator gets.”

Adam also has used scripting to simplify and streamline common housekeeping and maintenance requests. If it’s a broken doorknob or bed that needs changing, a simple phone call immediately sets the process in motion. “We set up an account for these calls and now have no problem that is outstanding more than 10 or 15 minutes,” said Adam. Their call center handles up to 200 calls of this nature per day.

Athens Regional also recently implemented a scripted stat paging line for its OB-Gyn staff. “Our OB dept has 24 doctors and they all want their calls paged on a first-come, first-served basis and they want immediate results,” said Adam. “The doctors wanted a dedicated operator just to handle their pages. We instituted one DID [number] that just handles their pages using an automated script. It saves the operators from making anywhere from 100 to 300 pages a day.”

“Scripting calls reduces the cost of training agents, which means lesser trained personnel can be used to process calls,” said Connie Johnson, scripting products manager at Amtelco. “The benefits are increased customer service and improved customer satisfaction because calls are all handled consistently and correctly. Scripting is most often used for complex types of accounts. It simplifies those, but still allows you to get more information than you would get with a simple message.”

“Order entry can be quite complex,” Johnson said. “When you consider what’s contained in a basic sales catalog and then factor in specials and discounts and payment methods, developing an order entry script can get tricky.” The best call scripting software now makes it possible for call centers to increase their profits by adding services like order entry, class and event registration, appointment taking, and location/physician referral.

Alan Tucker is a senior software documentation editor at Amtelco in McFarland, WI. For more information, contact Amtelco at 800-356-9148 or info@amtelco.com.

[From Connection Magazine November 2005]

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