‘Hello Mum, it’s Nancy,’ said the female on the phone when I answered it. ‘Oh no, it’s not,’ was my immediate thought. I’d remember if I had a daughter called Nancy. And she’d not call me mum.
Within seconds (I’m fast) I’d worked out that this was an English (but not native) speaking call centre person, using her adopted name of Nancy. And she wasn’t trying to pull a fast one by making me believe we were related. I reckon she addressed me as ‘Madam.’
Ever since receiving that, and a few other, calls, I have been puzzling over what any company at all thinks it stands to gain by addressing people in a foreign language on the phone. I mean, you can’t even hand over your bank details if you don’t understand or speak English.
But now I have been reading about ‘outsourcing’ which appears to be Swedish for Call Centres. Except they are the reverse of what English speakers have come to expect; which is people in other countries speaking – some sort of – English to them as they try to deal with banking, broadband or anything else fraught.
It seems that Swedes who need to call for Färdtjänst (the service that arranges for cars to take people with mobility problems where they need/want to go) now have the pleasure of talking to foreign call centres, albeit not to Nancy.
She has been replaced by people in countries such as Estonia, Moldavia and Senegal who have been taught to speak Swedish, purely for this job. Occasionally successfully, occasionally not.
I don’t know what I think. It’s pretty amazing if you can really teach a language so well that someone can almost pass as local. But I know how I feel when calling for a taxi and find myself talking to someone obviously not as nearby as I’d like, who doesn’t know where the address I’ve mentioned is. Although I’ve never had to tell anyone to go take a flying leap, unlike the poor Färdtjänst user who was unable to make her overseas Nancy understand where she was and where she needed to go. Nancy was pleased to hear the customer was considering flying as an alternative.