On the British Psychological Society’s Research Blog there is an interesting piece on how “Speakers with a foreign accent are perceived as less credible – and not just because of prejudice”
I have often wondered how it is that even though I am originally from the Indian subcontinent I, at some level, am uncomfortable when an agent on the telephone line has a thick Indian accent. The article – to my relief – makes it clear that it is not necessarily because I am prejudiced.
It appears that at the limbic (brain) level we are wired to treat information coming from a foreign accent as being less credible. The interesting piece is that even when the participants were made aware of this bias, it did not affect the bias towards the heavy accented speaker. For the lightly accented speaker the bias was countered.
So the implication for offshore call centres is clear: focus on the accent. I cannot help but think that many people in the offshoring industry already knew this at an intuitive level.