Dialogue Analysis In Customer Service Training: Alternative To Role Plays

Brief Description/Purpose

Many people hate role plays so this is a format to allow many of the benefits of role playing but without putting people on the spot and making them uncomfortable.

I've used this method for several decades in my customer service training to great success.


Small Group Work, but it can also be used in a whole group

Age Appropriate


Ideal Group Size

Small groups (of about 5-9) are used so it can be used for very large groups.

Time For Exercise

30-46 minutes


Angry customers, difficult customers, customer service

Detailed Instructions If Needed

Advance Work

You need to prepare some dialogues/scenarios that are directly relevant to the kinds of jobs people do in your group. Here is an example of what it might look like:

Dialogue #1: Nasty, Swearing Person Who Will NOT Give Up

Setting: This could occur in person or on the phone. Individual visits or calls in with a problem and believes he needs to speak to one specific person. That person is unavailable (either for good reason or not). We enter the dialogue below:

Staff: I’m sorry but I believe Mr. X is not available right now. I’ll connect you to his voice mail, and I’m sure he will call you back.
Customer: The “effin” hell you will connect me to voice mail. I know your scam. I’ve left a bunch of voice mails and the ***bleep*** can’t be bothered to call me back. I want to speak to him right now.
Staff: (Getting annoyed) Look, he’s not here, so how do you expect to speak to him? And you certainly aren’t going to get anything done here if you use that kind of language.

Your comment, (good, bad response? Why?)


Suggest what staff member SHOULD have said.


Customer: I pay your godda** salary, and I’ll use whatever language I want. I’m sick and tired of your lies. Not here...not here...I KNOW he’s there, and you’re just lying to protect his sorry a**. Get him and get him now before I call the press and the Mayor, or worse. Got it!

Staff: [now getting frustrated and angry]. Look, you’re making this
far more difficult than it has to be. Call back, or leave voice mail. Read my lips.
He is not here.

Your comment, (good, bad response? Why?)


Suggest what staff member SHOULD have said.


...and so on.

Provide these dialogue forms to participants.

Instructions For The Exercise

  • Form groups of 4-8 people.
  • Assign each group a scenario. I often will have multiple scenarios and assign each to a different group so the exercise doesn't get too repetitive.
  • Ask the groups to evaluate the employee's response, AND suggest what the staff member should have done.
  • Allow about 15 minutes for the group analysis segment. 

Bring the whole group back together and have groups report. If you set up the dialogues properly, you can then bring out the specific learning points you embedded in the dialogues.

So, for example, the sample dialogue above demonstrates how important it is for the employee to maintain self-control at all times, and avoid conveying his or her anger to the customer.

Additional Information if Available

Informal roleplays often emerge in the debrief process. For example, the course leader can ask a person in the group to enact the better response suggested, so that it can be heard, and seen by others. It's not as easy as it seems.

This is also a great exercise for opening up a session, as a kind of pre-test. It says a lot to the trainer about the current skill levels of the participants.