Do you have a “customer service” voice?
If you’ve ever worked in retail, food service, entertainment or a wide range of other careers, you might be familiar with the concept.
Now, thanks to TikTok, millions of people are learning about the customer service voice — basically, the voice you use at work that differs from your “actual” voice. Some users, like news anchor JR Burton, are showing off just how stark that difference can be.
In a video that’s drawn nearly 3 million views, Burton shows her followers how her on-air voice sounds in comparison to her normal, everyday speaking voice.
“Just a slight difference,” Burton captioned her video.
The phenomenon has become a full-on trend, with everyone from Amazon workers to Disney World employees sharing how they speak at work. The #customerservicevoice hashtag has drawn more than 18 million views on TikTok so far.
That said, the concept is nothing new. This behavior is usually referred to as code-switching, which is when someone changes how they talk, act or present themselves depending on who’s around them.
Code-switching can be simple and universal — like how you might be afraid to curse around your parents — but it can also be a harmful result of discrimination.
The phenomenon is full of racial and cultural undertones, and, as a Pew Research study found in 2019, it disproportionately affects Black Americans. As the research showed, nearly half of all Black college graduates reported changing their voice and/or behavior when interacting with different races and ethnicities.
Burton acknowledged that code-switching was at play in her video; however, she also explained to TikTok users that no one asks her to change her voice at work.
“FYI anchors don’t have to talk like this,” Burton wrote in a comment. “We’re only told to speak up and enunciate. The ‘neutral’ accent is so that anyone can understand us as we move around a lot. You don’t want to be in Louisiana and sound like a New Yorker.”
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