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Consumers reject regional accents
Wednesday, 25 November 2009 00:00

The way a brand or business ‘sounds’ could be as important as how it ‘looks’, according to new research into voice branding.

With 56% of Britons stating that they are more inclined to listen to a special offer or promotion if it came from a voice that they find appealing, businesses cannot afford to ignore the growing importance of voice within promotion and customer service.

The research, conducted by YouGov, reveals that over half (52%) of British consumers find a ‘Queen’s English’ accent appealing when speaking with someone in a call centre. The Scottish accent remains popular, coming in as the second most pleasing accent to listen to (with 34% of consumers finding it appealing), whilst a North East ‘Geordie’ accent is the third most popular accent with 26% of consumers finding it appealing. The least popular regional UK accents are from Liverpool ‘Scouse’(9%) and Birmingham ‘Brummie’ (9%).

Most appealing accents when speaking with someone in a call centre:

1. Queen’s English (52% of consumers rated this accent within their 5 favourites)
2. Scottish (34% of consumers rated this accent within their 5 favourites)
3. North East - ‘Geordie’ (26% of consumers rated this accent within their 5 favourites)
4. Leeds/ Yorkshire (24% of consumers rated this accent within their 5 favourites )
5. Welsh (19% of consumers rated this accent within their 5 favourites )

Least appealing accents when speaking with someone in a call centre:

1. Liverpool/ Scouse (9%  % of consumers rated this accent within their 5 favourites)
2. Birmingham/ Midlands (9% of consumers rated this accent within their 5 favourites)
3. West Country (10%of consumers rated this accent within their 5 favourites)
4. Cockney (10% of consumers rated this accent within their 5 favourites)
5. North West/ Manchester (15% % of consumers rated this accent within their 5 favourites)

Leading brand expert James Hammond believes this may be explained by the power of celebrity. “With personalities such as Cheryl Cole and Ant and Dec dominating the media, it’s no surprise consumers have become familiar with the Geordie accent and currently favour it above more traditionally perceived call centre accents. However, these accents may only work well in their respective contexts. An effective voice is a consistent and authentic one. The voice that you use to attract footfall must also chime with the customer’s experience of the company. If it doesn’t, you could be in trouble.”

Ian Turner, Northern European General Manager at Nuance Communications, said: “It is human nature to react differently to varying types of voices, based on accent, gender and tone. What this survey highlights is exactly how important it is for businesses to recognise the impact that brand has at every customer touch point. Some of the world’s biggest companies invest millions of pounds each year ensuring that the way their brands ‘look’ and ‘feel’ reflect the values and beliefs of the brand. Yet very few organisations actually think about how their brand ‘speaks’, despite the fact that the vast majority of customer service communication and advertising is based on listening.”

Whilst many organisations continue to pursue a strategy of off-shoring customer call centres in the belief that this approach is most cost effective, today’s research reveals that around two-thirds (65%) of Britons who have called a call centre find non-British accents hard to understand. Amongst those over 45 years of age, this figure rises to over 70% of people. In addition, although consumers are on the whole still favourable towards the Scottish accent, 31% of people find it the most difficult accent to understand after non-UK accents. Illustrating the potential direct impact of voice branding on sales, over half of respondents (56%) would be more inclined to listen to a special offer or promotion if it came from a voice they found appealing.

 

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