British institute to train call centre executives in Chennai

Friday, 19 December 2003, 08:00 Hrs
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CHENNAI: A British firm has set up an institute here to train their executives and "neutralise" their Indian accents and "sensitise" them culturally to their customers.

The Sunderland Supersight Academy will train individuals as well as employee groups from firms with call centres for four months. Some students may be sent to Britain to learn more about their firms' customers, institute officials said.

Mark Nicholas, general manager of the Sunderland Supersight Academy, announced its launch here Thursday, saying: "After manufacturing and shipping, it is the turn of the services sector to plateau in Britain. I don't see Britain legislating against outsourcing."

The Foresight Group, a conglomerate with interests in shipping, oil exploration and leisure, has collaborated with Britain's fifth largest college, Sunderland College, to set up the academy. It hopes to produce at least 1,500 resource people every year. Foresight's Indian subsidiary here is known as Supersight.

Said Supersight executive director B. Nanban: "By 2010, a million people in India will be needed to cater to outsourcing that will come to this subcontinent."

India has been identified as the country with a "huge BPO (business process outsourcing) potential and companies in the West save as much as 60 percent to 70 percent on costs when they have back offices in India," he added.

"Now the time has come to fix teething troubles in this sector," Nanban said, in references to problems with Indian executives' localised accents among other things.

While it is true that India has a big pool of talent, "we have to find out if this suits the end customer requirement", he pointed out.

The academy will host a videoconferencing link with the UK institution. Learning material incorporating the best of India and British firms will be developed.

Students will be imparted listening skills, customer care know-how, telemarketing capabilities, call handling and stress management techniques.

The academy will have half-a-dozen speciality teachers from Britain as well as India. Teachers will visit each others' countries.

"It is not just about being able to imitate an American accent... It is very difficult to pick up a foreign accent during just a four-week course. Especially if you have spoken in a certain way from your childhood.

"In our content development for India, we have avoided going for any particular accent. We have developed a 'neutral accent' module," Nicholas told IANS.

This is the way the college hopes to overcome the challenge that the Indian call centre industry is facing today -- Indian voices trying to imitate "American accents" and "not being quite understood".

"A neutral accent should be clearly understood at both ends. For this we will give students simple audio tools that are to be heard again and again, and whenever needed, several months of training in the UK," Nicholas explained.

This, he hoped, would help the "Indian customer care sector fulfil the requirements of a global accent and cultural sensitisation".

Source: IANS
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