With the establishment of multi-national companies world-wide, the global economy has forced the physical vastness of miles to turn into communities connected intimately by technology. You have experienced this when you’ve called your “local” cable provider to troubleshoot your cable modem and been serviced by a Filipino call center, or changing your travel plans and been answered by an Indian with a name like “Mike” or “John”.
Times have changed as the call centers have learned a from their own mistakes.
The “Gold Rush” of outsourced call centers in the early 2000s, while great for the companies saving hoards of money, was not met with warmth or patience by the English speaking countries. The US/Western economy has an unusually keen distaste for tolerating accents. For what seemed like overnight- , they were being ostensibly forced to understand Indian and Filipino (along with some African, Eastern & European thrown in) accents and were blasting outsourced customer services from their couches. We saw comedic acts by the likes of Jimmy Kimmel joking about Indian call centers and as well established American consumer- it seemed like Indians were either driving taxis, working at 7-eleven or in a call center- the back lash was felt world-wide. There were reports of people being incredibly rude to international call center agents and hanging up on them because they didn’t understand their accents. Americans were especially intolerant in such situations.
But now- it’s 2015.
More and more call centers are being encouraged to speak in their own accents (still with standard English and not grossly deterring from the “understandable” levels) but to focus on sound grammar and authenticity. It appears the world of call centers has literally changed in the last 10 years.
Let’s look at some of the trends we are seeing particularly in the Indian Call Center environment:
1. FAKE NAMES:
Indian Call Centers were notorious for using fake American names so their western counter-parts could address them with ease. Names like Hritesh, Mukesh, Arya were too foreign- understandably. While it was right to change the names- the ill-gotten American accents that came with those names was proving unauthentic and intolerable.
Trend: Today, we have called several companies that have routed to call centers in India where they are using their actual names, agents are not faking American accents and they’re doing a good job
Large call centers give their agents cultural training and keep them informed about important cultural references so as to relate to their clients on the phone. Again- this was understandable but not properly executed. Pretending to be sitting in the same country, with your put on accent and throwing out cultural references were not effective. Annoying the customers was inevitable (It was clear they were not in Kansas anymore!)
Trend: The trend now is to acknowledge cultural events but to stay away from acting as if you are in that culture as well.
During those “un-scripted” moments, call center agents would use, what we’ve already established as fake accents and throw in Americanisms which when it happened to you, felt like driving past an 18 car pile-up that you slowed down to watch unfold.
The trend now- is to put the client on hold- even briefly- so that there is no demand for uncomfortable silences to be met with really bad grammar or worse- slang.
So what’s changed?
It’s 2015- the western world has become more acclimated to the sudden shift of their call centers moving off-shore and have been primed to be more tolerant of this world becoming their community. As the call centers commit to more authentic and careful about casually behaving as though they live right next door- we are seeing positive improvements for the off-shore telecommunications industry as a whole.
What does this mean?
If you’re thinking of starting a calling operation, or hiring a call center- you can feel assured that the industry and tolerance levels have shifted to your benefit. With the trend of off-shoring calling operations is another emerging trend of off-premise call centers with agents sitting at home or remote offices.
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