“The American” is Not an American HRO Story

This weekend I saw the George Clooney movie, “The American.” I was not too sure what it was about, but then, it starred George Clooney. Title aside, I knew within the first few minutes it was not an American movie, or an American story. It takes more than speaking in English to tell an American story, and to provide culturally compatible HRO employee care call center support.

It is not that the movie was poorly made or the story poorly told, it just was not American. Nor was it an action movie. It was moody and slow, seemed to start in the middle and then little happened, little was said, and even less was explained. And the end, well, the less said the better. 

The experience reminded me of another movie, “The Devil’s Own,” with Brad Pitt and Harrison Ford (1997.) Brad Pitt is in the U.S. and brings his Irish “troubles” with him. He tells Ford, “Don’t look for a happy ending. It’s not an American story. It’s an Irish one.” Once again, same language, but with different cultural expectations.

For a movie that is quintessentially American, see the original “The Karate Kid,” (1984) starring Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita. For many years it has been a shared cultural referent; “wax on, wax off.” Movies, television and music are great sources of cultural touch points for any modern culture, and especially so for Americans. By the way, The Karate Kid also reflects the American cultural imprint for quality, which is a bit different from the Japanese or Australian imprints. (Seriously, there were studies.)

All of this is not to say that HRO employee care cannot be provided from outside of any one country to another. HRO care can, and is, being provided from a growing list of locations around the globe. Still, most voice-based employee support remains onshore, followed by nearshore delivery. Cultural understanding is one of many elements that impacts successful call center support. It is less important for basic transactional questions and answers. But as the service moves more into consultative areas that require interpretation, tone and manner become just about as important as important as technically correct answers.

I look forward to seeing how live chat will impact multi-shored employee care support. With chat, the use of pre-scripted stock phrases will not be judged on tone and manner, and chat is expected to be more focused on direct and brief exchanges.

HRO buyers and providers, help build the cultural bridge for farshore employee care center staff.  One simple example; share information on major current events, holidays and client-specific business news. And remember, during times of great stress and uncertainty voice calls will increase, even when other modes would be more efficient. No matter the country, company or culture, we all need and want helpful and understanding human contact.

Linda Merritt, Research Director, HRO, NelsonHall

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