For the call centres in India, it's no longer about being American. Despite the rising number of voice-based business process outsourcing (BPO) companies, the initial enthusiasm for training employees in American, British and European accents seems to have died down.

More and more call centres are now shifting focus to getting the job done and queries answered effectively rather than getting the accent right.

It is necessary that the employees have the necessary communication skills and speak confidently in accurate English, says Nipuna head (HR) Naresh Jhangiani.

Companies now provide training in pronouncing the words correctly, phonetics and importantly on neutralising the accent. In other words, taking care of the mother tongue influence. The stress is on grammatical correctness, accurate sentence construction and a sense of vocabulary.

Initially, companies felt that customers would like it more if the employees spoke their language. However, with research, it has been found that providing solutions is the key. Companies have found that at the end of the day solving the problem quickly and effectively is what the customer wants.

We realised that most American customers would rather have their problems resolved than listen in to put-on accents. Therefore, we train our agents to be experts at problem resolution while ensuring that they have neutral accents, says SITEL India CEO Safir Adeni.

However, it is necessary that we pronounce the words as per the customer requirements and understanding, says Knoah Solutions chief executive officer Sri Myneni. Citing an example, he says that we might pronounce schedule as it is, but Americans pronounce it skedule. To avoid complications, it makes sense for the BPO to keep it simple for the customer. The employee must be able to think on his feet and relate to the client, says Mr Jhangiani.

Training tools today include understanding the American or British away of saying things and pronouncing words. Conversation skills are the most important rather than accents. Soft skills' training includes presentation skills, group discussions and simulated conversations with a focus on the listening and comprehending abilities.

Commenting on the issue of fake names and identities, Mr Myneni said, the idea is to keep it simple for the client. An American cannot pronounce a complicated name. By simplifying it, we make communication easier. He also feels that dual identity is not an issue if call centres position themselves differently and explain to the employee the need for a false name.

Indians are at an advantage because we are adaptable to accents. We can emulate an American as well as the British accent with equal ease unlike others, says Mr Jhangiani. Companies today look for the employee's innovativeness in a discussion, and test for abilities to think, do and communicate. Analytical skills and perseverance are the keys to service orientation, he adds.

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