The Impact of Accents

Topics: English language, Psychology, Stereotype Pages: 7 (1817 words) Published: May 6, 2013
The Impact of Accent Stereotypes on Service Outcomes and Its Boundary Conditions

The Impact of Accent Stereotypes on Service Outcomes and Its Boundary Conditions


“When we listened back to calls people had complained about often they were fine. Some people wanted the member of staff to fail because they were in India. I don’t know why that should be, but when customers start voting with their feet, you have to respond.” --Adrian Web (Call Center Manager, BBC news, 2/14/2007)

The accent of service providers may positively or negatively bias customer perception of service quality—especially in service contexts where visual cues are absent (e.g., call centers).  In this research, we explore the effects of accent stereotypes in a variety of call center situations. With two laboratory experiments, we demonstrate that even with identical service outcomes, customers’ perception and interpretation of their service experience changed as a function of customer service employee accent (i.e., British, Indian and American). However, biases caused by accent stereotyping decrease when relevant objective information is available (i.e., the industrial norm).

Sociolinguistics literature (Lippi-Green 1994, Giles and Powesland 1975) suggests that accent is an important indicator of one’s ethnicity, regional affiliation and social class. Even though accents may be subtle, individuals are still able to perceive and distinguish among different accents (Cargile 2000; Giles, Williams, Mackie and Rosselli 1995). People attribute positive traits to certain types of accents based on the prestige of the class or group that possess it (e.g., sophistication and politeness associated with British accent) (Ladegaard 1998). In contrast, people also discriminate against the speakers with foreign accents (e.g., African-American, Indian, and Mexican-American) which may “link to skin that isn’t white, or signal a third-party homeland” (Lippi-Green, 1997, p.239). People’s general tendency to evaluate individuals’ performance more harshly than others upon accent has been a persistent finding in extant literature (Baugh 2000; Purkiss et al. 2000).

We extend these theories by examining accent stereotyping effect in the service context and testing its influence on customer satisfaction and customer evaluation of employee performance. Additionally, based on previous literature on stereotypical influence on causal attributions (Hewstone 1990; Jackson, Sullivan and Hodge1993), individuals tend to attribute stereotype-consistent behavior to internal stable causes and stereotype-inconsistent behavior to external unstable causes. We hypothesize that American customers are more likely to attribute favorable service to individual employee factors and attribute unfavorable service to external firm factors when an employee has an American or British accent. However, the attributions are reversed for employees with an Indian accent.

The impacts of accent stereotype on service outcomes depend on the informational context during the service. Research on stereotyping effect (Kunda and Thagard 1996) suggest that stereotyping is most likely to occur if customers do not have background information or other objective cues to make their judgment. Thus we hypothesize that the influence of employees’ accent on customers’ perception and evaluation of the service encounter should disappear, or at least decease, if customers are informed of industrial norms.

We conducted two empirical studies to test our hypotheses. The first study was designed to test the hypotheses that the accent stereotypes will bias customers’ perception and evaluation of their service experience. Participants were asked to listen to taped phone calls between a customer and a bank employee from the perspective of the customer. Consistent with our hypotheses, we found that accent stereotypes influence both customer evaluation of employee...

References: Baugh, John (2000), “Racial Identification by Speech,” American Speech, 75(4), 362-364
Cargile, Aaron Castelan (2000), “Evaluations of Employment Suitability: Does Accent Always Matter?” Journal of Employment Counseling, 37 (3), 165-177.
Cowen, David A. (1986), “Developing a Process Model of Problem Recognition,” Academy of Management Review, 11 (4): 763-776.
DeShields Jr., Oscar W and Gilberto de los Santos (2000), “Salesperson 's Accent as a Globalization Issue,” Thunderbird International Business Review, 42 (1), 29-46.
Giles, H. and P. F. Powesland (1975), Speech styles and social evaluation. Academic Press.
Giles, Howard, Angie Williams, Diane M. Mackie, and Francine Rosselli (1995), “Reactions to Anglo- and Hispanic-American-accented speakers: Affect, identity, persuasion, and the English-only controversy,” Language and Communication, 15(2), 107-120.
Hennig-Thurau, Thorsten, Markus Groth, Michael Paul, and Dwayne D Gremler (2006), “Are All Smiles Created Equal? How Emotional Contagion and Emotional Labor Affect Service Relationships.” Journal of Marketing, 70 (3), 58-73.
Hewstone, Miles (1990), “The ‘Ultimate Attribution Error’?: A Review of the Literature on Intergroup Causal Attribution,” European Journal of Social Psychology, 20 (4), 311-335.
Hilford, Andy, Murray Glanzer, Kisok Kim, and Lawrence T. DeCarlo (2002), “Regularities of Source Recognition: ROC analysis,” Journal of Experimental Psychology, 131(4), 494-510.
Hosoda, Megumi, Eugene F. Stone-Romero, and Jennifer N. Walter (2007) “Listeners’ Cognitive and Affective Reactions to English Speakers with Standard American English and Asian Sccents,” Perceptual and Motor Skills, 104 (1), 307-326.
Jackson, Linda, Linda Sullivan and Carole N. Hodge (1993), “Stereotype Effects on Attributions, Predictions, and Evaluations: No Two Social Judgments are Quite Alike,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65(1), 69-84.
Kahneman, Daniel, Paul Slovic, and Amos Tversky (1982), Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases, New York: Cambridge University Press.
Ko, Sei Jin, Charles M. Judd, and Irene Blair (2006), “What the Voice Reveals: Within- and Between-Category Stereotyping on the Basis of Voice,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32(6), 806-819.
Kunda, Ziva and Thagard, Paul (1996), “Forming Impressions from Stereotypes, Traits, and Behaviors: A Parallel-Constraint-Satisfaction Theory,” Psychological Review, 103(2), 284-308.
Ladegaard, Hans J. (1998), “National Stereotypes and Language Attitudes: The Perception of British, American and Australian language and Culture in Denmark,” Language and Communication, 18 (4), 251-274.
Lippi-Green, Rosina L. (1997), English with an Accent: Language, Ideology, and Discrimination in the United States, London and New York: Routledge.
Locksley, Anne, Eugene Borgida, Nancy Brekke and Christine Hepburn (1980), “Sex Stereotypes and Social Judgment,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39 (5), 821-831.
Matta, Shashi and Valerie S. Folkes (2005), “Inferences about the Brand from Counterstereotypical Service Providers,” Journal of Consumer Research, 32 (2), 196-206.
Mount, Michael K. and Duane E. Thompson (1987), “Cognitive Categorization and Quality of Performance Ratings,” Journal of Applied Psychology, 72 (2), 240-247.
Mullen, Brian, Brown, Rupert and Smith, Colleen (1992), “Ingroup Bias as a function of Salience, Relevance, and Status: An Integration,” European Journal of Social Psychology, 22 (2), 1992, 103-122.
Oliver, Richard L. (1980), “A Cognitive Model of the Antecedents and Consequences of Satisfaction Decisions.” Journal of Marketing Research, 17 (4), 460-469.
Parasuraman, A., Valarie A. Zeithaml, and Leonard L. Berry (1985), “A Conceptual Model of Service Quality and its Implications for Future Research.” Journal of Marketing, 49 (4), 41-51.
Podberesky, Rosita, Robert H. Deluty and Stanley Feldstein (1990). “Evaluations of Spanish- and Oriental-accented English speakers.” Social Behavior and Personality, 18 (1), 53-63.
Poster, Winifred R. (2007) “Who 's on the line? Indian call center agents pose as Americans for U.S.-outsourced firms,” Industrial Relations, 46 (2), 271-304.
Sandberg, Jared (2007), “ 'It Says Press Any Key; Where 's the Any Key? ': India 's Call-Center Workers Get Pounded, Pampered,” Wall Street Journal (Eastern edition), Feb 20, B1.
Schneider, David J. (2004). The Psychology of Stereotyping, New York: Guilford Press.
Seta, J. J, Catherine E. Seta and Todd McElroy (2003), “Attributional Biases in the Service of Stereotype Maintenance: A Schema-Maintenance through Compensation Analysis,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29 (2), 151-163.
Solomon, Michael R. (1985), “A Role Theory Perspective on Dyadic Interactions: The Service Encounter.” Journal of Marketing, 49 (1), 99-112.
Stockwell, Peter (2002), Sociolinguistics: A Resource Book for Students, Routledge, London and New York.
Tsalikis, John, Oscar W. DeShields Jr., and Michael S. LaTour (1991), “The Role of Accent on the Credibility and Effectiveness of the Salesperson,” The Journal of Personal Selling and Sales Management, 11 (1), 31-42.
Yeung, Catherine W. M. and Dilip Soman (2007), “The duration heuristic,” Journal of Consumer Research, 34 (3), 315-326.
Continue Reading

Please join StudyMode to read the full document

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Accents Essay
  • Dialect and Accents Essay
  • Accent Essay
  • Essay on impacts
  • Impact Essay
  • Impacts of environment issues to China Essay
  • Psychological Impact Research Paper
  • impact of wto Essay

Become a StudyMode Member

Sign Up - It's Free