HomeTin-awvol. 2 no. 1 (2018)

Intercultural Communication Challenges: Exploring the Minds of Call Center Agents

Rachelyn P. Montejo



This phenomenological inquiry sought to describe and understand the intercultural communication challenges of 16 call center agents with their foreign customers as ascribed in their over-the-phone experiences. These call center agents were employed as customer service representatives in Davao call center companies which provide services to the United States. Moreover, this study aimed to provide insightful information to help call center agents provide better understanding of the challenges they met in terms of intercultural interaction. The data were collected through in-depth interviews and focus group discussions. Results revealed four major themes emerged for the intercultural communication challenges of call center agents. These were irate customers, failure to appropriately respond to customers, cultural and linguistic diversity of customers and pressure from work standards and nature of environment. Agents coped with these challenges by building a positive atmosphere during the call, building rapport, using the available resources, matching one’s language to fit the customer, prioritizing the customer’s concern and being open to cultural and linguistic differences. The importance of the ability to adjust, good values, and emotional fortitude also emerged as themes that pertained to key characteristics of an ideal call center agent. The call center industry was seen as a good learning avenue for self-improvement. Thus, intercultural communication presents situations that challenged the emotional management skills and speaking abilities of agents.