Thursday, August 24, 2006

Scripts 'n' such

Most service interactions involve some kind of script. And I'm not talking about the written down kind that actors and telemarketers use. I'm talking about the ideas we all have about how a service experience should go. For example, when I go into a clothing store, I expect someone to greet me, ask me how I'm doing and if there's anything they can help me with. When I'm ready to pay for my items, I wander over to the sales counter where the salesperson will usually say something to the effect of "Did you find everything you were looking for?" and I'll tell them yes or no. They'll ring up my order, I'll give them some form of payment, and they'll probably inform me of a promotion or credit card offer, bag my things, and I'm on my merry way. The script doesn't always unfold exactly like this, but it's a pretty good estimation of a retail shopping experience.

But lately I've noticed that salespeople can really mess up this script. Sometimes the changes are good, but other times they're very unwelcome! The two most notable examples from my recent experiences happen to come from two different fast food restaurants. At one Wendy's I frequent, I've noticed that they seem to have no regard for scripts lately. I place my order, pay for it, get my food and...that's it. No "thank you" or "have a nice day" or anything to indicate that the transaction is complete. This has happened a couple of times in a row now and it always leaves me feel like something is missing or not quite right (probably the lack of manners). This is a complete contrast to what goes on at a neighboring Chick-Fil-A. Every employee answers my requests with the phrase, "my pleasure." Example:
Me: "Can I have some extra sauce with that?"
Nice Chick-Fil-A Employee: "Sure!"
Me: "Thank you!"
Nice Chick-Fil-A Employee: "My pleasure!"

I love this! In fact, this small gesture is one of the ways in which Chick-Fil-A's service stands out from all the rest and it's one of the first things that comes to my mind when I think about eating there. To top it off, the employees seem to mean it and don't display a bit of sarcasm. Furthermore, almost every employee says it every time. That one aspect of service delivery says a LOT to me about the company and its regard for its customers. The very polite employees so impressed me that I made it a point to tell the manager about how impressed I am.

Scripts aren't necessarily spoken dialogue, but service providers should be aware of what people's service expectations are and how they can meet and shape them. Chick-Fil-A management probably thought that customers will expect employees to respond to "thank you's" with "you're welcome's." They decided to pleasantly upset the status quo by inserting "my pleasure's." The result is a script that reinforces the brand image and improves customer satisfaction (well, at least mine!). The only possible downside here is that now I expect the revised script and if I don't get it, I'm bound to feel a bit let down. The Wendy's in question, however, trashed the script and left customers (ok, this customer) feeling unsatisfied and awkward. In the library setting, patrons have all sorts of scripts for how using the library should work. We can pleasantly surprise them by inserting some unexpected elements into those scripts, or we can disappoint them by not fulfilling expectations. I try to do the former in small ways such as following up on research consultations. Patrons may expect that they come in, get research help, leave, and that's the end of it. But by following up, I add a new element into the script that hopefully improves their views of library services.

Does anyone have an example of a company that altered a script for the better? Let me know!

Update: While not about scripts exactly, Seth's Blog has a nice post on customers' expectations and what you can do about them (embrace them, change them, or defy them).

Categories: usable_theories

1 comment:

sylvie said...

While at a local bookstore, I heard their manager answer the phone with "This is Denise, I can help you!" It did surprise me, I found it brilliant and am now using it to surprise my callers.