Flipping the Script. An Authentic Approach to Customer Experience Design.

Say the word “scripted” these days in customer experience design and you’re likely to be met with a lot of unfavorable responses. To be fair, it is often justified. The term recalls everything from bad reality television and meaningless political promises to irritating customer service calls. In other words, it’s come to stand for communication that’s mechanical and inauthentic — or in some extreme cases even downright manipulative — certainly not characteristics you would want to be applied to customer experience design. But here’s the thing: that’s just what the term has been misappropriated to mean. The idea of a customer experience script isn’t inherently a bad thing, and we are here to reclaim “the script” as a powerful tool that has been misused, misrepresented and misappropriated.

So, what is a script exactly? If not this evil, manipulative device, what say you?

In the simplest of terms, a script is a written plan or sequence of action; instructions on what to say or do. So your script is your action plan put into the context of customer experience design. It is what you do that enables, encourages, engages and empowers your customers to do what they do. (Cause and effect.) We’re not advocating pulling a stack of cue cards out of your pocket to dictate each step of the customer experience, but a script offers a prepared approach for making the customer experience better. How? By guiding the internal processes that support your customer’s journey. It’s essentially about looking at your business’ role in the journey, and what you can do to create more meaningful interactions between you and your customer.

But wait, isn’t that the point of a service blueprint?

Not exactly…

SERVICE BLUEPRINT VERSUS SCRIPTING

A service blueprint is like the behind-the-scenes companion to a customer journey map. If we think of a stage as a metaphor, the customer journey map will encompass all of the things that take place in the front of the stage (online interactions or inside a retail location, for example), and the stage area proper represents the point of inflection between the customer and the business. The backstage area is where the service blueprint comes in. It captures all the things the company does to execute the customer experience design and make it happen — the lights, the sets, the crew, etc. — as well as the support processes that underlie each stage of their journey.

The service blueprint then should give you a clear picture of how the customer experience design is orchestrated and delivered from the business perspective. It’s a great foundation for understanding the current state of your operations, and how what’s going on behind the scenes is tied to the customer’s experience. But if you want to make an impact and work toward an ideal state, it’s time to write your script. Your customer has objectives. Your business has objectives and a customer experience strategy to execute. Your script should work in clear recognition of these objectives to create a customer experience that is meaningful and mutually beneficial. Your script is the relationship bridge. It is the how, providing tactics that can help you better support the customer journey and, if you are doing it right, your business’ bottom line.

So now that you know what we think a script can and should be, let’s talk about what goes into creating one…

CAUSE & EFFECT

Functionally, you start by dissecting the service blueprint based on your desired outcomes (such as the decision to purchase) and draft something to help achieve them. The first step is what we call a beat analysis — breaking down the experience and analyzing its individual actions moment by moment, or beat by beat as it were. Actions are the building blocks of customer experience design, and they are complex. Actions are easy to write off as a singular thing, a verb, but a complete action is comprised of two events, one that initiates causing the other to respond — in other words, a cause and its effect. We do something that causes you to do something and together, we create an action.

In analyzing each action, you need to design your brands behaviors and activities to promote and support your desired customer experience strategy. If what you are doing does not lead to your envisioned outcome, it may be time to alter your cause — do something different that will result in the desired behavioral outcome. Start with a strong and clear “cause” to elicit greater specificity in the next “effect” event. Be clear and decisive in stating your intent as you develop the script: “I did X, in hopes that the customer would do Y.” And aim for measurable outcomes as both a means for evaluating your success as well as a tool for prototyping and improving your experience over time – a good script can and should guide customers toward distinct behavioral objectives and benefit your business bottom line.

DESIGN FOR ACTION

Step one: remove blinders. Step two: put down your preconceptions and step outside of your silo. Now that you are out of your bubble, breathe it all in. Contextual inquiry and qualitative research should drive your process. In simple terms: talk less and listen more. Having a great script does not mean you need to deliver the Gettysburg Address every time. In practical terms think dialogue and not a monologue. It is through conversation that you will identify real customer needs and better understand how those needs manifest themselves in the greater context of their lives.

Considering the context and allowing for conversation enables your customer to select the path that is most appropriate for them. In this way, the best scripts are not so much a rigid outline of a single path of action but are instead flexible and adaptable to suit a variety of potential customers as well as behavioral objectives. Not everyone behaves the same way, and as such, the script should be considered a strategic communication piece — a guide, not a rule. The hope is that with this tool to guide the experience, you’ll be able to find even more moments of potential connection because better controlling the “effect” requires understanding your customer.

My mom (like many moms) was known to say, “learn to control yourself, because you sure as heck can’t control others.” While my 9-year-old self never wanted to hear that message, I came to understand the value of preparing myself, and perhaps more importantly, focusing on what I can control. I found that when I was prepared, I was more relaxed and engaged. I had developed a script that worked for me. My objective at the time: survive adolescence. So, what does this slight deviation from my central theme mean for your business? Well, if you are still reading this at least you are listening. What it means is: focus on what you are doing and why you are doing it before you start writing. In other words, identify your script’s objective first, then think about your role in guiding your customer toward the desired outcome. Armed with this understanding you are well positioned to deliver meaningful and impactful experiences to your customers.

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