Know the game to play the game!
– SPEECH ETIQUETTE
WORKING ABOARD – PART 1
It is always exciting and fun when relocating to another country, usually these are the reasons why people choose to work aboard:
- Time to take on a new challenge
- You have done well and your company is giving you the opportunity to work aboard (promotion)
- Immigration – start a new life
Many foreigners assume that having a degree or PhD, and being able to speak good enough English that people can understand them would be enough to get on. Sadly this is far from reality. Many times over we have seen non-native English-speakers running into the same issue in the UK, failing to understand that judgements and prejudices are still very much alive in modern Britain. Overlooking this fundamental point can give people a nasty surprise, and we can say that most non-native English-speaking foreigners are under-prepared until reality hits them. Ignorance isn’t always bliss. Judgements around foreign and regional accents are very real in the UK. We are sorry to say that having a degree or PhD is not enough, it will not take away the judgements and prejudices.
Workplace 1.1 – Accent and Customer Experience
Customer experience is so much more than taking clients out to dinners and drinks. There is so much more to it. What are your client facing skills?
- Can you communicate with your clients effectively?
- Can they understand you?
- Are your messages being understood?
- How do you come across to your clients?
The perfect example would be foreign call centres. British and American companies often outsource their call centres to cut costs, and these offshore call centres’ employees may have a good level of English but often speak with strong foreign accents. The majority of the time customers will get fed up of not understanding what the representatives say and hang up. They are not being rude, they are just frustrated that they are not being offered the adequate customer service. A lot of people just don’t want the hassle of going back and forth trying to understand what is being said as they see it as wasting their time.
To look at the importance of accent further, India used to be the leading country for call centres for foreign companies, however due to the constant complaints of the heavy Indian English accent, the Philippines has acquired 70% of India’s call centre businesses since 2014. India and the Philippines are both non-native English-speaking countries but due to their history, English is the second language for most Indians and Filipinos. The reason why the call centres moved from India to the Philippines is simple, Filipinos have a much softer American English accent than the Indians.
Interestingly, we have found that European English accents such as French, German, Swedish, Danish, Italian are much more acceptable in the finance world than any other industries. But why? We need to explore further!
The language barrier is very real, our clients have been laughed at by colleagues and in general public settings. It is not a nice feeling and no one should feel excluded. This goes one step further for the ambitious and aspiring clients that were told that they need to learn to speak properly (elocution lessons) before they will be introduced to clients or they might be allocated to mainly look after clients in their native tongue.
One of our clients was trying his hardest to help his customer (a Scouser), it was already difficult to understand the Scouse accent but then being shouted at by the Scouser saying, ‘FFS! Put me on the phone to someone who speaks English’ was no joke.
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