Scottish Lilt too Costly for British Airways

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LONDON - British Airways is rethinking its call center operations after discovering a tendency among US customers to linger for a chat with Scottish and northern sales people on costly transatlantic phone lines.

A call from here is typically routed through to BA's Glasgow and Newcastle (in the north of England) call centers at the airline's expense.

And while an accent can often boost business, BA is finding customers' inclination to stay on the line to ask about beauty spots and British heritage, is costing it dearly.

"People calling from Des Moines or Texas have been surprised to be answered by a Glaswegian or Newcastle accent," said a spokesman for BA.

"There have been instances of conversations being prolonged so people can hear the twang of the old country.

"Ultimately, our staff are trained sales people. It wouldn't be part of their job to stop and have a chat for 30 minutes."

Ironically, one of BA's reasons for locating their call centers in the north of England and Scotland, was because accents have been proven to sell products.

But as yet, the airline has not revealed what it is going to do to prevent the profit loss from chatty callers.

Delta Airlines avoids BA's costly problem by not revealing to its customer that their calls have been switched outside the country.

Two years ago Delta consolidated most of its European call centers into an operation in Ealing, west London.

Delta re-routes local calls and uses native speakers, so customers need have no idea that calls are being dealt with outside their country of origin.

A customer from Spain is answered in Spanish - a caller from Barcelona in Catalan.

Delta is so pleased with its European call center that it has just announced the transfer of its German operations to the UK.

The 65 people employed in Frankfurt, who cover Germany and Austria, will be offered jobs in London.

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