How and When Accent-Based Biases Are Expressed and Suppressed: You Lost Me at Hello

Research published last month in The International Journal of Research in Marketing found that the relationship between negative accent biases and customer evaluations of call service employees was dependent on the service outcome.

With increasing cost savings for business owners there continues to be a surge in the movement of service call centers overseas. Of importance is U.S. consumers' sentiments towards foreign call center employees and ultimately the company. Research published last month in The International Journal of Research in Marketing found that the relationship between negative accent biases and customer evaluations of call service employees was dependent on the service outcome.

Using a standard American and Indian accent, results revealed that employees with non-Western accents were only rated lower then employees with standard American accents in unfavorable outcome conditions. Reasoning for this is our ability to justify the prejudice towards the foreign-accented speaker and our inability to suppress our change in mood following an unfavorable outcome; highlighting the cognitive and affective roles in accent stereotyping.

Interestingly, accent biases can also be positive. The researchers also found that with a favorable outcome, British-accented employees received higher customer satisfaction ratings than American-accented employees, but this advantage disappeared when the outcome was unfavorable. Furthermore, when customers are given diagnostic cues, for instance the frequency of an unfavorable vs. favorable service outcome, accent stereotyping effects were reduced.

The findings indicate although it may be tempting to outsource unpleasant and time-consuming tasks to international call centers, the prevalence of a foreign-accent may lead to unsatisfied customers. As long as customers feel a service outcome is favorable, negative accent biases are suppressed; suggesting that call service managers should work diligently to provide high-quality, favorable results while providing customers with transparent and accurate information about the service experience.


If you would like more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview with Ze Wang, please contact Sarah Lefebvre at sarah.lefebvre@ucf.edu.


Categories: Consumerism

Tags: accents, Call centers, Consumers, Management tools


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