Scousers put the accent on success

David Ward

The Guardian, Friday September 22, 2000

The soft and friendly version of the Scouse accent has helped to turn Liverpool into Britain's favourite location for call centres.

Liverpool, where call centres have become an important strategy in economic regeneration, came top of a league table compiled by the recruitment agency Adecco. It was the only British city to win a place in the European top 10.

Adecco surveyed more than 250 call centre executives employing 40,000 staff in Europe who handle 550m calls a year.

Alice Powell, investment manager for the Mersey Partnership, which helps to bring jobs to Merseyside, said employers saw accents as an important factor in determining the quality of staff.

"The Liverpool accent used to be perceived as harsh and impenetrable," she said. "It still comes up as an issue at initial meetings. But we can quickly allay fears by showing that companies already here are successful.

"A Liverpool voice is now seen to be straight, understanding and friendly. It is not seen as a barrier to business."

Glasgow, Hartlepool, Belfast and Wolverhampton also fared well in the survey, suggesting that employers are not afraid of other distinctive accents.

But estuary English, the recognised accent of the south east, appears less popular: east London, Reading and Southend finished near the bottom of the list.

The findings complement research by the Henley Centre in which John Grimbaldeston, of Abbey National, which employs 250 call centre staff in Liverpool, said: "Our research showed us there was a very warm reception to the Liverpool accent.

"In a call centre, it's vital how people come across on the phone."

Paul Kerr, of Vertex, which has 800 staff in Knowsley, Merseyside, said: "Scouse accents came very high in customer appreciation. In call centres, all customers have to go on is the verbal presentation.

"So an accent can be pivotal to business success and people simply relate to Scousers."

The Mersey Partnership has been attracting call centre business for four years. The region now has 35 centres employing 10,000 staff.

Newcomers include Bertelsmann, the German media and distribution group, and US Airways, which has opened a 3.5m European reservations centre.

Placed on the Estuary English website by JCW 2000 09 28

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