Monday, June 17, 2024

Accent Competence in Employees with Accents

A service provider achieves better results when the customer participates more fully in service provision, contributing knowledge and effort. Customer participation drives satisfaction and loyalty, generating higher customer retention, sales growth, and firm profitability.
     After noting such past findings, researchers at FHWien der WKW, Bern University of Applied Sciences, and University of Leeds go on to report how their studies show the effects on customer participation of foreign-culture accent detected in the provider by the customers. A customer becomes less interested in contributing to the service encounter when the provider has an accent the customer considers to be from an unfavorable culture. Unfavorable-culture accents discourage customer participation even in situations where the participation is required for successful completion of the service. The range of service settings explored by the researchers covered financial planning, air travel, and guided meditation.
     The researchers do fear that reports of these findings will be used to discriminate against employees by limiting those with certain accents to less favorable job assignments. They propose avoiding this by mixing unfavorable-culture accented employees with native speakers in service delivery posts. Another suggestion implicit in their findings is to overcome negative stereotypes associated with certain accents by ensuring that all employees deliver competent services in a caring manner.
     A quite different type of country-of-origin study suggests an additional remedy: Babson College researchers asked liquor store shoppers to sip a wine, then give their judgment of the quality. Some of the study participants were told the wine was from Italy, while others were told the wine was from India.
     The timing of the country-of-origin information determined how the stereotype operated: If the wine-taster was given the country-of-origin information before the sip, those tasting the “Italian” wine rated the product as having higher quality than those tasting the wine from “India.” If the information was given after the sip, the results were reversed: Those who had sipped the “Italian” wine gave lower ratings to the quality on average than those getting the wine from the same bottle, but told it was from India.
     It was as if the consumer who had enjoyed the experience went overboard in fighting against stereotypes about Italian and Indian wines.
     Applied to the foreign-accent problem, maybe starting provider-customer service contacts with text messages and then, after showing competence, revealing the foreign accent, could result in services delivered by those with the accent being rated as even better than by those without.

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