New software from Nexidia can work out how well overseas call centre employees can speak English.

Nexidia specialises in phonetics technology for audio and video search that is used for e-discovery in the legal market, in healthcare, financial services, insurance and other industries.

The vendor has announced the availability of Nexidia Language Assessor, which tests a person's fluency and pronunciation, and is designed for the recruiting call centre representatives and training existing ones.

The automated tool analyses recordings of call centre applicants reading scripted paragraphs, and measures them based on pronunciation, fluency and speed. Applicants who say "mm" or "ah" often or whose readings simply don't match the script might not be quite fluent, said Chris Jeffs, Nexidia's vice president of product management. Employers may also be concerned about the speed of speech.

"Too fast tends to be bad because it's difficult to comprehend," Jeffs said. "Too slow is concerning to call centres because if you have a very slow call centre representative you'll have very slow calls that tend to be more costly."

The scripts applicants must read include common language and words and phrases that might be tough for them based on their native languages.

A recent survey found that two-thirds of customers will consider switching to a different vendor when they have a bad call centre experience. Customers are often left unsatisfied by offshore call centre representatives, the survey found. Call centre employees who speak clearly resolve customer problems 88 percent of the time, while those with poor communication skills resolve problems only 45 percent of the time.

"It's well understood that language barriers have a direct impact on customer experience," Jeffs said.

Pricing for Nexidia's Language Assessor was unavailable. The software is available in 33 languages and variations of languages, including North American English, UK English, German, Russian, Japanese and Chinese.