Globalizing politeness?: Towards a globalization-sensitive framework of mediated service encounters

Hultgren, Anna Kristina (2019). Globalizing politeness?: Towards a globalization-sensitive framework of mediated service encounters. In: Garcés-Conejos Blitvich, Pilar; Fernández-Amaya, Lucía and de la O Hernández-López, María eds. Technology Mediated Service Encounters. Pragmatics & Beyond New Series (300). John Benjamins, pp. 97–120.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1075/pbns.300.04hul

Abstract

Call centres have grown exponentially since the early 1990s, effectively replacing face-to-face with telephonic and other types of mediated service provision (Holman et al. 2007; Income Data Services 2005). Drawing on observations, interviews and documentary data from offshore and onshore call centres in four national contexts, Scotland, Denmark, Hong Kong and the Philippines, this study analyses the speech style prescribed to call centre agents and finds that while there are some local adaptations, it is remarkably similar across all four locations. This appears to be the case even though the language of the service interaction varies across the locations. On the basis of these findings, it is argued that the upsurge of call centres – and more generally globalization – has led to a homogenization of service as linguistically constructed. The study argues for engagement with industry stakeholders to consider in greater depth cultural sensitivities and the extent to which this globally prescribed call centre speech style accords with local politeness conventions.

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