Saying what?

In my childhood Bassie and Adriaan were my heroes on Dutch television. With of course the clown and acrobat as protagonists, but also with brilliant roles for the baron, B2 and Vlugge Japie. B2 was the half-deaf rascal, who was either East Indian deaf, or had a hearing problem. His winged pronunciation was: "Watzeggie?", if again he didn't understand something. And I've been thinking about him a lot the past few weeks. Because several times I desperately said "What's to say?" to customer service people.

If I had them on the line, they'd either mumble or talk too fast. Or I had someone from Limburg or Twente on the phone. I love those accents. But if the accent prevails and I don't understand the technical information I need, the fun of the accent is gone.

Let me get straight to the point. Understandability is the basis, the foundation, the principle of a good telephone conversation. You have to be able to understand and understand what that person is saying. That I as a client at the other end of the line - and in my case with a well-functioning hearing aid - understand what someone is saying. And I'm not talking about complicated language, jargon or content. No, just speaking Dutch intelligibly. Or English.

Because let's be very honest. Have you ever called an English-style call centre where you were put through to someone in India? I don't know how you experience such a conversation, but I often have a hard time making chocolate out of what's said. It sounds lilting and delicious.

But what if that doesn't make me understand?! Then, in my opinion, you've failed. I'll call again, hoping this time I can get someone else on the line. Someone who does articulate and speaks better general civilized English (if that exists). So that's two phone calls instead of one and you're wasting more time unnecessarily. Not good for the KPI's and certainly not for me as a client.

It's a tricky subject. Because do I reject people with an accent or a dialect? Definitely not. But it's important that you're understandable and understandable. Especially when you're on the phone and it's your profession. Customer service is a profession. Surely the basis of it is a voice I can follow. So... Ask customers whether they understand your employees well. Listen back to conversations and look closely at signals from customer feedback. Poor intelligibility is more common than you think and you don't want customers expressing themselves as the Baron. Who went crazy from B2 and kept shouting: "Drums, drums, drums!"


This blog was written for CustomerFirst and published on 7 October 2020

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