Thanks to J. Angelo for his insight regarding my previous post.

It is quite true that one of the problems that Philippine-based call centers face is the crop of young graduates who are really capable of communicating with customers.

As M.A.K. Halliday has proposed in his Systemic-Functional Linguistics, communication always has a context. This can simply be illustrated by the word “mouse.” This word can easily change its meaning if used between pest exterminators and between computer geeks.

Now, call center agents usually follow scripts in order to “talk” with customers. For technical support people, they just have to browse specs documents, incidence sheets, and FAQs and relay the information back to the caller. Much like human answering machines only with a slightly more personal touch.Do you speak English?

jangelo points out this fact quite interestingly. What if the caller veers away from conversation that is beyond the script? Hearts begin to race. Sweat drips. Imagine a little voice screaming inside their heads echoing until it becomes a scream of their own. Panic alert! Is this call being monitored? Mayday!

What comes next is a series of uhms and ahs followed by a string of mispronounced words strung together with jumbled syntax leading to a sloppy goo of semantic chop suey. “Aaah, sir, aaah… Just waits a minute… Uhm… I will checks with uhm… aah..”

Maybe not all call center agents would be the same. I know of a few conteporaries in the English department scattered all over Ambergris, Convergys and Sykes who will not buckle in such circumstances. But how many call center agents have English degrees versed not only in discourse, but also with a few lines of Wordsworth and Keats?

Not many, I suppose.

This alarming trend proves that some call center agents are only as good as parrots. Train them to say things but drag them into unfamiliar ground and (as Randal Graves saids) “they buckle like a belt.”

How do we address this problem? As a quick fix, call centers should train agents more in communication rather than scripts. However, this would be unwise in a business standpoint since their reason for hiring people is because they have “good” communication skills with which to start.

In the larger picture what this proves is that we have been generating college graduates who cannot communicate using the English language. Probably its just because of too much Studio 23 sitcoms and Smallville (no offense, J. Angelo!) that they are able to sound words the American way.

A look at the education and language policies anyone?

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