Yesterday I had another occasion to call into a help desk. This time, my computer virus protection package was expiring and I had a question about the renewal.
No grammatical goofs came through this time but, if they did, they were overshadowed by something else. When I inquired as to whether there had been a problem with my subscription renewal, the young woman said, “There’s no problem, Hon.”
Immediately, I suspected this didn’t roll off the tongue the way most terms of endearment do, say by a salty diner waitress or an avuncular car salesman.
Call me a cynic, but I’ll bet you anything that my call came in with some sort of tag saying I was dialing in from Maryland. “Hon” is Maryland’s trademark pet name; the closer you are to Baltimore, the more likely you’ll hear it.
Perhaps it was a case of life imitating art imitating life.
Here’s what I mean. Last fall, NBC debuted a sitcom called Outsourced. Based on a film of the same name, the show is set in a call center in India. The American manager trains Indian help desk operators to seem American by teaching them about the U.S. culture and speech. Here, have a look:
It’s no secret many U.S. companies run business operations out of India and other countries, where it’s cheaper and more efficient to do so. And it’s true that these customer service personnel have become adept at communicating seamlessly with American customers. Maybe that’s why they all seem to be named Julie.
I gather help desk operators, regardless of where they’re based, work off a pretty tight script and they stick to it. I already know they have key data about me. What’s to say they the script doesn’t weave in a geo-specific colloquialism or two for effect?
Are ya with me, Hon?