There I stood at the check-out counter, waiting patiently as the cashier scanned my items. After the initial inquiry about my status as a Walgreens card holder, all conversation came to a screeching halt. I glanced lustfully at the bottle of Blue Label teasing me cruelly from behind the counter, but really all I could think about was the impending assault on my poor consumer ears. The receipt was stuffed into one of my bags, and then it came.
“Thank you and be well.”
The branded Walgreens salutation had once again, like clockwork, signaled the end of my transaction. I cringe every time I hear it. Why? Because it’s a script. And why do scripts suck? They’re not natural. They’re not authentic. They’re not human.
If you take creative control away from your employees, you’re over-branding. If you trust your employees so little to use their own common sense and social skills that you feed them lines to deliver on cue, you’re over-branding.
If you prioritize being uniform over being human, you’re over-branding – and killing your authenticity.
I believe Walgreens genuinely does want its customers to be well, but this isn’t the right way to promote the message. It’s one thing to want customers to have a consistent experience with you (ideally a great one), but to try and achieve that through forced, scripted means is foolish. And, of course, this phenomenon isn’t unique to Walgreens. Plenty of other companies have similar scripts that they feed to employees. Here’s another story:
Not too long ago a friend of mine accepted a new job as a salesperson for an office equipment supply company. After he’d been there for a few months we met for drinks to catch up and talk about how things were going. He said he’d been learning a lot and even had regular meetings with his team so that everyone could perfect their pitch. Being a communication guy I was excited to hear that his company put such a heavy emphasis on improving the presentation skills of its employees. That’s a rare thing nowadays.
However, my excitement quickly turned to confusion when I learned from my friend that everyone was required to practice and memorize the exact same pitch. Same slides, same order, same talking points, same everything. I had thought each salesperson was being encouraged to put their own unique spin on the core content. In reality, his company had set up an assembly line to churn out robots spewing the same lifeless script like better-paid telemarketers. When I asked why it was being done that way, my friend said that the Head of Sales insisted on it because that’s the way he had always done it. All I could do was shake my head.
How can customer-facing employees build authentic rapport – like people – if they’re not being given the creative freedom to act like people? Short answer: they can’t. And customers will be turned off as a result.
So throw out the scripts. Give employees outlines that highlight the key points to be made but allow for flexibility in how to make them. Show them examples of creative methods others have used. Put more of an emphasis on hiring people with great communication skills and big personalities so that the need for scripts disappears. Your people can deliver your message much better when they’re simply being themselves.
All things are good in moderation. Brand consistency is a great idea, to a point. If it starts interfering with your ability to build rapport with customers, it’s time to reassess your strategy.