Vir Cantium

I'm right, you know …

Acute Accent

We all know about off-shoring, more specifically the use of call centres overseas, particularly in India. In some cases, these have been less than successful and are now being brought back into the UK – indeed, some organisations are now using the fact that they are using British call centres as a selling point. There were a number of problems with using Indian call centres, but among the top gripes was the accents that made things tricky. One doesn’t have to be a racist to have problems on a line that might be less than optimum quality, making out the accent of “John” in Mumbai.

So back to the UK the call centres are moving. But there is a problem here too. Partly it’s that the location of the centre isn’t the only issue – the fact that the centre was moved at all doesn’t indicate an organisation dedicated to customer service. Nor does it deal with the sort of issues that really drive customers away – the failure to deal with product or service quality that caused then to call the centre in the first place – the failure demand.

No, there is still another problem which has remained for too many call centres. The accent.

This evening I had a call from a friendly enough chap from my telecoms provider. I couldn’t tell you which because firstly “telecoms provider” could cover about three different companies in my case, and secondly because the guy calling me had a near unintelligible Ulster accent. I have no doubt he was in the UK, but since I was probably call number 342 he was by now racing through the script with his best Naarnirish lilt.

Now in actual fact I usually like the Ulster accent to listen to. It’s a good no-nonsense accent. However, after asking him to repeat twice which company he was calling from I told him it wasn’t a good time to call and could he call back please, putting the phone down just as he was saying something like “ … coo’ ias whayuuuravaugmuornthlyspeandisthur soitis?”. He may have been trying to sell me something, it may have been to my advantage – I’ll never know.

So as the call centres return to the UK, perhaps the next step is to send the operatives on elocution lessons to adopt a more universally understandable accent – though I am a proud southern softie who would prefer good old received pronunciation, I would be quite happy with a mild Yorkshire or Brummie – and also to teach them to slow down. I’m sure this Kentish man is not the only one – surely a motormouth speaking with his best Thames Estuarine would be equally unintelligible to a Glaswegian.

So what does this make me – regionalist? Accent-ist? County-ist?

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