Cultural Training in Call Centres – It works both ways

Learning just a bit about the culture of the country a call centre is based in is a relatively small undertaking, but the long-reaching effects can be substantial.

Demonstrating respect for a culture (and indeed, a country,) is of utmost importance when building and maintaining a happy and successful call centre team.

When training a call centre team it is usually expected that the local greeting is (learnt and) used to get both parties off on the right footing. This show of respect is easy to do and is extremely effective. It makes every level of a call centre feel appreciated and involved. It encourages a team to want to learn more about the foreign cultures they are dealing with rather than merely having to know more about it just for their job. Good cultural training can have brilliant and far-reaching effects for a business, so it’s well worth taking the time to do it right.

When training at a call centre in a foreign country, it can be very easy to focus solely on getting the team manning the phones to understand their target audience. After all, that’s the main goal – to get the best customer service from the workforce. As a result, cultural training can sometimes focus only on encouraging employees to understand things like slang, social norms, current affairs and even accents of the people they will be taking calls from. This is definitely an incredibly important aspect of cultural training and will most certainly provide a good call centre, but it may not be the best it can be.

How it works both ways

There’s more to running a successful call centre team than just getting employees to understand the customs and culture of the people they will be speaking to on a daily basis.  A call centre works best and is more productive, like any other business, when the workforce is content. It helps to know that there is a mutual appreciation and respect, both for, and from, the cultures they are dealing with on the phone and therefore training staff to be able to obtain this is invaluable.

CultureSmart!Consulting trainer Martin Hall comments:

That’s why cultural training is so important as it helps people connect at a human level. Once you have connected it is then harder to treat someone in an anonymous manner and you can move to a new level.

For example, understanding the differences -that some cultures respect and expect communication to be indirect while others believe the exact opposite.  This is easy to state but difficult to learn, as we have automatic cultural defaults that are hard to override. What is the epitome of politeness in one, is the height of rudeness in another, and triggers that default response!  As in all communication it’s the little issues that arouse most offence.  We can however be trained to recognise these defaults, in ourselves first and then in others. 

Having learnt to recognise them, we can be trained to read them in their context and react accordingly.

Investing time in really exploring the host culture in business can pay dividends both in the short and long term.

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