Conversations with cyborgs

You can optimize a sales script just like the Democratic National Committee optimizes the subject lines on its fund-raising e-mails. A-B testing on a mass scale. If everything goes according to plan, that optimized script works great. But sometimes a script is useless or even harmful. I was delivering a talk in a workshop. There was pushback from the audience. I had to change direction. If I had stuck with the script, I would have lost them. It wasn't comfortable for the audience to watch me scrambling for a new direction. It was even less comfortable for me. But once I found a new angle, we were able to continue and salvage a useful discussion.

That's the idea behind new call center software that lets you play a script that you've prerecorded, then switch to the real-time you when the person on the other end asks an unexpected question, raises an objection, or simply won't follow your script. If you've pre-recorded scripts for the most common questions or objections, you don't even need to switch to the real you. You can just tap a key and pull up hugh grantanother script from your playlist.

The real-you part is how you normally talk - stumbling and inarticulate but flexible and authentic and ideally even charming. The Hugh Grant thing. It's for the transitions between the pre-recorded pieces, which are optimized for maximum persuasive and emotional impact.

In other words, your call-center rep isn't quite human anymore. She's part human, part machine - a cyborg carefully evolved to take care of your problem, get you off the phone quickly, and possibly charm you in the process.