Negotiating language barriers
Customer care delivery practices of a selected telecommunication company in Ghana
Keywords:code-switching, customer care, language barrier, language choice, telecommunication, Ghana
The primary aim of telecommunication companies is to provide customers with services that address their communication needs. It is, therefore, ironic if customers cannot communicate with the same people who should help them communicate with others better. Eliminating such barriers is important since research has shown that one determinant of service quality is listening to customers and keeping them informed in a language they understand. This paper, therefore, investigates how X-Telco (not its real name) customers and customer care agents negotiate language barriers. Through Myers-Scotton’s Markedness Model, the strategies participants employ in these contexts are analyzed. Data was sourced from interviews and non-participant observations. Findings show that agents typically use four strategies to resolve communication barriers: ‘shopping’ for possible languages, offering other languages, requesting for interpreters, and transferring the call. Considering that only two out of ten customers could access help, the paper recommends, among others, policies that will require agents to log language barrier calls by displaying on a screen the language in which help is needed and not a pre-assigned code since minority languages are not pre-coded.
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