At one time or another, we have all found ourselves on the phone with a customer service representative, trying to resolve an issue. Unfortunately, it seems as though no matter what we say, the person on the other end of the line offers the typical “scripted” response and does not address our problem. We continue trying to get our point across, hoping that the representative will eventually understand and provide some type of real assistance. Is this a bit of an exaggeration? Perhaps. However, according to results from the 2020 National Customer Rage Study, conducted by Customer Care Measurement and Consulting, one of the factors associated with high levels of customer dissatisfaction is the use of scripted responses by representatives.1
Does this mean that you should eliminate the use of scripts in your practice, and tell your employees to just “wing it”? Not necessarily. Scripts are helpful training tools and can be used as guidelines for patient interactions. The key is to remember that each one of your patients will have questions or concerns unique to his or her situation, and these must be addressed accordingly.
3 Reasons Practices May Choose to Use Scripting
There are several reasons why practices may choose to use scripting. Three common reasons include the following: (1) to train new employees; (2) to ensure that a consistent message is being communicated to patients; and (3) to build their brand.
As part of a training plan, scripting can help new employees feel more confident that they are communicating effectively. Scripts may also lessen the “learning curve,” thereby reducing the risk of patient frustration. When you provide clear and simple scripting to new hires, you are helping to ensure that patients will receive accurate and consistent messaging. In addition, it gives employees a framework for what should be communicated to patients.
The value of having a consistent message cannot be understated. This can be one of the greatest benefits of scripting, especially when there is a need to communicate sensitive information. When you provide scripting guidelines to your staff, you are, in essence, providing them with an extension of your own voice. Schedule changes, invoicing, and post-visit phone calls all provide opportunities for developing scripts that can promote consistency in messaging to your patients.
Healthcare providers invest a lot of time, energy, and money into good communication with their patients. However, these investments can be lost if the proper message is not conveyed during a patient’s initial contact with the practice (typically the first phone call). Connecting with patients is the first step in creating a positive experience. A professional, compassionate, and well-articulated message about your practice can instill confidence, letting patients know that they have chosen wisely regarding their care.
Key Elements to Consider when Creating Scripts
There are several key elements that need to be considered when creating scripts that will be used as training tools and guidelines.
Before you can respond to patients’ questions or concerns, you need to hear what they are saying. It is imperative to pay attention to the words that they use as well as their tone of voice. It is also important to avoid becoming defensive, which can hinder your ability to hear what patients are truly saying.
Empathizing with Patients
Being open to patients’ concerns allows you to truly empathize with them. Frequently, what is at the core of patients’ questions or concerns is fear. They may be worried that their symptoms are more serious than they appear. They may be anxious about waiting a long time to get an appointment or to have a prescription refilled. When you place yourself in your patients’ shoes, you gain better insight into the questions they ask—and why they are asking them.
Responding to Patients
When you respond to patients, it is important to convey respect and to not rush the conversation. Another effective strategy is to repeat back to patients what they have said. This lets them know that you understand what they are saying.
Keeping Things Positive
Positive scripting is defined as “the process of mapping out predetermined responses or phrases intended to limit the customer’s frustration and keep the interaction productive.”2 This type of scripting can be especially helpful when working with patients who are upset about a particular situation.
Positive words inject energy into the conversation and set the tone. According to Call Centre Helper, using these types of words in your scripting can make a big difference in patient interactions. Some positive words (and examples of how they can be used for customer service) are shown in Figure 1.3
In addition to including positive words, using the words “feel, felt, and found” can have a significant impact on the tone of a conversation. Examples of how to use these words in scripting guidelines are shown in Figure 2.3
Some may argue that scripting feels impersonal and disconnected. However, when it is done in the right context, for the right reasons, and in the right way, it can be very beneficial. The appropriate use of scripts in your practice can result in more positive experiences for your patients as well as your employees.
- Customer Care Measurement & Consulting. 2020 National Customer Rage study. February 2020. www.customercaremc.com/insights/national-customer-rage-study/2020-national-customer-rage-study/. Accessed May 13, 2021.
- Stec C. The do’s and don’ts of positive scripting in customer service [template]. Updated April 15, 2021. https://blog.hubspot.com/service/positive-scripting-customer-service. Accessed May 13, 2021.
- Call Centre Helper. Top 25 positive words, phrases and empathy statements. Updated September 22, 2020. www.callcentrehelper.com/the-top-25-positive-words-and-phrases-1847.htm. Accessed May 13, 2021.