Do people prefer *any* accent?

If you are British – like me – then you know a few things about regional accents. Stereotypes about people, and who they are, exist based on where you are from in UK itself, let alone outside the country.

Cheryl Cole’s Geordie (Newcastle) accent is mocked because it makes her sound stupid. David Beckham’s Essex accent makes him sound common and uncouth. If you hear a Liverpool accent then you need to check that the wheels are still attached to your car, and if you hear a Scot then you can be sure that a dour conversation about money is ahead.

So everyone in the contact centre business in the UK knows that the Scottish or a Yorkshire English accent is the most trusted voice to use for agents. Not anyone from Birmingham or Liverpool.

So I was interested when I saw this tweet just now by @dompannell “Breaking news: “90% of UK survey Respondents prefer South African accent.” Around Kings Cross maybe! #nasscom_ilf #parallelreality #deluded” He followed it up with: “The average Brit is quite racist and doesn’t like ‘any’ foreign accent… South African, French, Dutch, Indian… #nasscom_ilf #southafrica”

Obviously Dom was in the South Africa session where they were talking up their contact centres. But can promotion become self-delusional as Dom suggests?

A survey suggesting that 90% of British consumers actively like or want to engage with someone with a “foreign” accent would be a strange result. People want to engage with their own. Now, if the South African data suggested that 90% of British people prefer hearing a South African voice to an Indian one, then would that make sense? Would the RSA delegation even suggest that to a NASSCOM audience anyway?

I don’t know of many British consumers who would actively start distinguishing between which foreign accents are OK and which are not, so in the real world – away from the marketing spin – Dom’s comments may be very true. But that also applies to the Geordies too…

And for the record, I got my MBA from Liverpool Management School :-)

University of Liverpool Alumni party

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