Hinglish may have unofficially become the language of urban India but it is a strict no no in BPOs as Indian English expressions often tend to create problems for international customers and confuse them, an award-winning book says.
"British customers don't understand some of the expressions in Indian English. This can cause confusion and sometimes amusement. You need to be aware of what Indian English expressions are in your speech. Then you need to adapt to the customer's style," write Barry Tomalin and Suhashini Thomas in "International English for Call Centres".
"In talking to British customers you need to avoid the Indianisms wherever possible and substitute standard British English expressions. If you can improve your use of grammar, it will improve your image vis-a-vis the British customer. However, it won't normally affect comprehension," says the book which won the Highly Commended by the Duke of Edinburgh English Speaking Union Award in 2009.
The authors, who have practical experience of working in call centres and training call centre personnel, believe that Indian BPO representatives lead in keenness and commitment to the job but still need support in matching their communication skills with UK customer requirements.
"When you use Hinglish with people on the phone or face to face, they don't realise you are using Hinglish and neither do you. They just think you are speaking funny or in an uneducated and ignorant fashion," the book, published by Macmillan, says.
"Indian English isn't always understood on the international stage. The reason is that Indian English is affected by interference from Indian mother tongues. Although Indian English is a variety of English, just like US or British English, it isn't yet recognised internationally.
Since the customer (in BPOs) is king you have to adapt to the international variety used by the customers, not the other way round."
According to the authors, the key differences are in vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation.
Another drawback call centre executives have is irritating intonation couple with terrifying speed which can be overcome by getting rhythm, pitch and intonation right.
"Rhythm describes the way words are grouped together to create a unit. It's made up of stressed and unstressed syllables or words grouped together to create a sense of harmony between them and in the sentence. We absorb these rhythms as soon we learn to talk and unconsciously we are listening out for them. When we hear them we feel reassured. When we don't, we feel uncomfortable."
A simple technique called 'Leave a beat when you speak' can help one speak more slowly, the book says. "When you are delivering a call centre script, divide the text into 'rhythm groups.' Then leave a short pause at the end of each rhythm group. Just a beat or two to allow the listener to catch up."
Pitch is also another important factor. "English in the Indian subcontinent is sometimes spoken at a very high pitch. This can be very irritating for international English customers, who are used to a more modulated tone of voice," the book says.
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