The Impact of Accents

Can a regional accent make or break the success of a call centre agent cover
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Can a regional accent make or break the success of a call centre agent?

Our editor Megan Jones asked our LinkedIn Community for their opinion on this matter, and we’ve put the results together to share with you.

Can a regional accent make or break the success of a call centre agent poll graph
Opinion on Accent Response %
Yes – Some Are Better Received 58%
Sometimes 10%
No – Experience Is What Counts 32%

683 industry professionals cast their vote, and with 58% of respondents selecting ‘Yes – some are better received’ there is a clear feeling on this matter.

Interestingly, 32% chose ‘No – experience is what counts’, showing there are some contrasting opinions on this across the industry too.

What could this mean? These two opposing views show that contact centres are potentially missing out on opportunities with accents; those that believe experience counts could be shooting themselves in the foot by not considering the impact of regional accents, whereas those that believe some accents are better received could be making things harder for themselves by looking for people with specific ways of speaking over experience.

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Considering the range of opinions on this poll, we’ve looked through the comments provided by respondents to find more information and insights to share with you:

Blame Can Be Placed Inappropriately

As long as the call goes well, nobody cares about the accent. As soon as it doesn’t, there are always people who judge and place blame inappropriately.

Luckily this does not happen often, but I have had reports of agents being insulted because of their accent, but it never started from the accent alone.

You can’t always make everyone happy, but the most important part is to show your employee that you do not accept the caller’s behaviour and you do whatever you can to protect them from being discriminated against.

Thanks to Benjamin

There’s a Reason

There’s a reason – apart from cost – that call centres were originally focused in specific areas of the UK.

Home shopping was around Liverpool, and back in those days you’d not see any higher-end brands rushing to that region.

Glasgow was also favoured over Edinburgh, as a lot of research indicated it was a more trusted accent.

Very few call centres wanted to have what they called “Estuary English” accents, so there was not much growth in the Thames Valley region.

Newcastle of course prospered at the start of the ‘massive site’ concept with the AA and BA moving thousands of seats there – underpinned by a newly acquired love of the Geordie accent and mass unemployment, not to mention government grants, ten-year ‘rates-free’ agreements, and low land prices.

I think we have moved on a lot from these early days in the 80s when the industry was smaller and the research techniques were less sophisticated.

Thanks to Thomas

Accents Can Be Leveraged as an Advantage

I’ve seen accents leveraged based on the type of business. The Caribbean accent was welcomed when dealing with travel and hospitality because of the connection with a vacation.

Clear, articulate speech is key for the agent, but the voice of the agent can be leveraged.

Clear, articulate speech is key for the agent, but the voice of the agent can be leveraged.

Thanks to Bradley

Needs to Be Clear and Understandable

I don’t know so much that “accent” is an issue, but for best contact results, we need to be sure we’re clear and understandable.

One thing we need to teach our agents is the ability to “style step” with our customers. We want to match tone (for the better), speed of speech, and acceptable verbiage. We need to be engaged and patient.

Thanks to Shawn

Some Work Better Than Others

Not sure I would go so far as ‘make’ or break’. However, there are some accents and voice types that work better than others – often depending on the quality of the line or even the complexity of the case.

What can make a difference is the advisor’s ability to adapt to the customer’s needs – slowing down, changing pitch, choosing different words and phrases, being happy to spell things out clearly if they aren’t getting through so well. In other words, empathy and adaptability are key.

Thanks to Richard

Communication Plays a Vital Role

It is important to note that communication plays a vital role in the success of a call centre agent, and a strong regional accent can sometimes make it difficult for customers to understand them.

Communication plays a vital role in the success of a call centre agent.

However, factors such as product knowledge, problem-solving abilities, and customer service skills are equally important.

Thanks to Richie

It’s All Down to the Accent

I’ve worked in two contact centres in Lancashire and one in Yorkshire. The Yorkshire-based company is still thriving 20+ years after the two Lancashire ones went bust.

It’s all down to the accent.

The Yorkshire contact centre was opened because of the friendliness of the accent. When I went for the job interview, I was concerned they might not offer me the job because of my Lancashire accent (they did).

My all-time favourite contact centre to call as a customer was based in Cork, Ireland. Whenever I called, I knew what I wanted would be achieved because of the “let’s get you sorted” accent.

Thanks to Tony

Tone and Knowledge

I know there are some people who believe certain accents are a disadvantage. However, in my opinion, tone and knowledge would be more of a factor than accent.

If you have a friendly or empathetic tone to your voice and know what you’re talking about, your accent becomes less of an issue.

Thanks to Dave

Accents Can Have an Impact on Call Quality

I believe accents sometimes have a strong effect on call quality, for several reasons, such as understandability and, unfortunately, the built-in biases of the customer.

From a QA perspective, an agent having a thick accent can make transcription a challenge. Which is why it’s important to have a robust solution with not just multiple languages supported, but multiple dialects of those languages.

Accents sometimes have a strong effect on call quality, for several reasons, such as understandability and, unfortunately, the built-in biases of the customer.

You also need robust AI analysing the transcription with the ability to examine the context of where certain words or terms are used in a sentence, which can help clarify what was being expressed.

Thanks to James

Callers Judge Based on Accents

Sometimes a call centre agent’s accent does have an effect. When you hear someone with an accent (dependent on where they are from) it can have an impact on the caller.

Thanks to Bharat

Regional Expressions

I think regional expressions can make more difference than the accent. Especially if the country has a big area, like in Brazil, where specific regions have a lot of expressions for the same thing.

Thanks to Igor

Accents Impact How a Person Is Perceived

I think that regional accents can have an impact on how someone is perceived, and it certainly can make a difference in how successful a person’s interactions with callers can be.

People can connect more easily with someone who speaks in their own accent, and it can also help to put the caller at ease. The fact that you can quantify it is amazing!

Thanks to Martin

Don’t Let Accents Stop People

An accent should never glass ceiling anyone. Encourage them to learn, grow, and develop.

Thanks to Dr. M. Dave Salisbury

Think About It Strategically

Absolutely, nuances in language make a monster difference! Particularly in a sales interaction.

However, if you’re able to strategically pair the customers/leads to specific agents prior to the call taking place, these nuances can be turned into a big strength!

(We’ve been doing this sort of thing for 15 years, with lots of case studies to support it!)

Thanks to Andrew

If you are looking for more articles, read these next:

Author: Robyn Coppell

Published On: 13th Apr 2023 - Last modified: 16th May 2024
Read more about - Contact Centre Research, , ,

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