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Be Excellent: Know When to Go Off-Script

In Goodnight Opus, the children’s book by Berkeley Breathed, the Bloom County penguin becomes bored with Granny’s nightly recitation of Goodnight Moon. When Granny falls asleep reading to him, Opus departs the text.

Departing the text takes him from the mundane to the magical. We can all learn something about excellence from Opus.

It is impossible to provide first-rate service to everyone if you are unwilling to depart the text. Call center and help desk staffers, read: if you are not brave enough to depart the script from time to time, you will ultimately irritate more people than you help.

A recent call to the DSL support line of a telephone and telegraph company in America went something like this:

CALLER
My modem isn’t working. It had been dropping me offline frequently, and now it won’t connect at all.

TECH SUPPORT
If the power light on your modem is red, it means the modem isn’t working.

CALLER
The power light has been red since I got it, even when it was working.

TECH SUPPORT
If the power light is red, the modem won’t work.

CALLER
The modem worked for a few months, and the power light was always red.

TECH SUPPORT
The modem won’t work if the power light is red.

CALLER
This is the second modem I’ve gotten from you. The power light on the first one was always red, too, even when it worked.

TECH SUPPORT
A red power light means the modem isn’t working.

After a few more rounds about the color of the light, the caller hung up in frustration and tried the “redial” approach to customer service. “Maybe if I get someone else on the phone…”

Similarly, a customer in a department store flagged down an employee to ask if they carried a particular product. After answering all of her questions with a string of I-don’t-knows, the employee pointed to a red phone and said, “You can call customer service.” Her response: “And if I call customer service, are they going to send you?”

Repeating a script that isn’t helping a client is no different than saying, “I don’t know,” ad nauseum. By adding just five simple words, you can open the door for stellar customer service: “I don’t know, but I will find out.” Then, proceed to find out, and keep your client in the loop.

Quality begets quality. When you strive for excellence in all that you do, others will take note, as Granny does at the end of Goodnight Opus. Upon finding her napping with a very satisfied look on her face, Opus believes that she, too, has “departed the text.”

What does going “off-script” mean to you? Are you willing to do it?