“Hello, customer service. How may I help you?”
With just those eight words, a customer may already be dreading having called customer service. No matter how simple a question they had, it’s now become a chore and will take up more time they didn’t want to spend on the phone.
How can a simple greeting make such a big impact? It depends on whether the call center agent they’re talking to has a non-native accent. Although a company that outsources their post-sales assistance calls to other countries (or even just regions!) may save some money, the long-term effects will be seen in their sales.
Customers make prejudiced assumptions immediately when they hear the person on the other end of the line. Accent-based biases are formed right away depending on the call agent’s voice. It can be as simple as a “naw-ee-stuh” accent answering a call for a Midwestern company– or an agent “talkin’ Suthern” to a caller in the Pacific Northwest. Local callers prefer local accents.
Thorough research has been done on the effects of accent-based biases. A recent study shows customers are more likely to attribute a bad customer service experience to the fact their call agent had an accent. This can damage the rapport a company has with its customers and the perception of the quality of a company’s service. The infographic below shows research from Zendesk about how call centers that have agents with local accents affect the quality of customer service.