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The role of accent in UK call centres

the role of accent in UK call centresIn a call centre environment, where the quality of a call hinges on the speaking and listening skills of the agent, voice and accent have an incredibly important role to play.  Customers want the agent to be easy to understand, pleasant to speak with and demonstrating empathy.  So, what role does accent really play in UK call centres? 

Voice branding

Businesses channel huge sums of money into creating their ideal brand image; yet little attention is paid to creating the ideal brand voice.

It’s in our very nature to interpret and respond to voices in different ways, with their varying tones and accents. Every accent carries with it certain connotations; and whether they are true or not, we can’t help making assumptions about the person speaking.

When it comes to whether or not voice can impact a business’ bottom line, the statistics speak for themselves: 56% of Brits say they are more inclined to listen to a special offer or promotion if the person telling them about it had a voice they found appealing, shows a YouGov survey conducted on behalf of Nuance Communications.

So, what accent tops the ‘most appealing’ list? Polling 2,072 Brits, the study found Queen’s English – or Received Pronunciation (RP) – to be the clear winner, with 52% of respondents rating it one of their top five favourite accents. This was followed by Scottish (34%), North East – ‘Geordie’ (26%); Leeds/Yorkshire (24%); and Welsh (19%).

Featuring at the bottom of the list were Liverpool/Scouse and Birmingham/Midlands, with just 9% of those surveyed putting the accents in their top five. Next came the West Country and Cockney (both with 10%), followed by North West/Manchester (15%).

The rise of regional

RP may be one of the most appealing accents, but that’s not to say your target customers will favour it over others. And in fact, in recent years the number of businesses adopting regional accents for their adverts and contact centre services has witnessed a sharp increase.

A PH Media Group survey, cited by Prolific North, uncovered a recent 27% rise in UK companies using accents in on-hold marketing. Of the total, 37% said they deliberately adopted a particular accent to reinforce their brand’s identity. The survey explored associations people have with certain accents, uncovering that Scottish is perceived as trustworthy and reassuring, while Manchester is seen as industrious and creative.

Yorkshire is an accent perceived as wise and honest - a good reason for Broadband supplier Plusnet to feature a Yorkshireman in their TV campaign. Also, the accent is a nod to the brand’s Yorkshire routes, helping to reinforce its identity.

In terms of call centres, the Matinee Multilingual blog explains that a wealth of banking firms have located their call centre services in Scotland, with the accent being aligned with financial prudence as well as trustworthiness. 

What works for you

Ultimately, there is no right or wrong accent; and what works for one business might not work for another. Call centre helper, for instance, explains how a local accent may suit smaller businesses operating in a certain area, while a more neutral accent such as RP could work best for companies serving an international client-base.

Your brand image should inform your brand voice – are you a corporate firm that wants to be seen as professional and intelligent? Or do you take a more relaxed and friendly approach to customer service?

The one thing to remember is that speaking to a call centre agent may be the only time a customer has personal, verbal contact with your brand, so it’s vital to provide them with a quality service from the outset.

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