Most of us dread dealing with them, but call centres are hard to avoid as an increasingly ubiquitous aspect of modern life. However hard they try, it just seems that they can never quite get the right balance between friendliness and sincerity. My recent study in the Journal of Sociolinguistics sheds light on a key feature of call centre communication: the linguistic strategies drawn on by call centre agents to build rapport with customers.
I collected and analysed data from a Scottish call centre in the financial sector, combing through company documents, sitting in on training and interviewing staff. I also got rare access to recordings of customer service calls, which are often out of bounds for researchers because of data protection acts and commercial sensitivities.
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