Most everyone knows that the Latino population is the fastest growing ethnic group with 25 percent of all births in the U.S. being of Hispanic origin. Also, in the U.S., the buying power of Latinos will reach 1.2 Trillion dollars by the end of 2011, compared to 212 Billion in 1990. In response, many companies are directing their marketing teams to target this new growth population segment with advertising and promotional campaigns. Service is service, no matter what the country of origin, ethnicity or preferred language of customers, but here are some hints on how to leverage this tremendous opportunity to reach this burgeoning audience.
Before I share my suggestions, I do understand that there is a great deal of conversation and opposing opinion about offering services in Spanish, since English is the official U.S. language. I can definitely respect both points of view. Since the late 1800’s people immigrated to the U.S. from all over the world and the majority either wanted or needed to learn English to get positions in the workforce. However, most people continued to speak their native language at home for many years, even after being assimilated. The primary difference between the late 1800’s and now is that Latinos represent a significant portion of our community. It makes good business sense to understand and attract Latino consumers, whatever language they are speaking.
For those of you who would like to provide a more welcoming approach to Latinos, I have the following 5 suggestions:
• Although the majority of Latinos speak English, almost 50 percent prefer to speak Spanish within their homes; mostly due to older extended family members living in their households. This finding was part of a study conducted by ENTREVISTA, which also uncovered that Latinos appreciate when companies offer Spanish voice mail menus and Spanish-speaking representatives. It makes them feel that organizations welcome their business. Having toll free numbers, websites, instructions, recipes, etc., in Spanish sends a clear message that a company wants to reach out to and engage with Latinos.
• While the majority of all consumers want good service, when there is a problem, offering an apology is an important first step. More often than not, Latinos are looking for a verbal or written apology more than any kind of financial reimbursement. Responding to and resolving the issue can be more appreciated than a quick refund.
• Allow more time for handling Latino interactions since your staff may need to listen to detailed explanations of what went wrong and for the discussion of options available to rectify the problem, no matter the language used. Patience and concern can be more valuable than an expedient transaction.
• Address Latinos as Mr. and Mrs. where possible, rather than using their first names. Using Señor, Señora, and Señorita can set a more respectful tone for the conversation which will be appreciated and indicate consideration.
• Support local charities and participate in community events to gain an understanding of the Latino culture. These activities can go a long way to demonstrate that you welcome Latinos to your business and want to learn more about their heritage.
In closing, effectively serving the Latino population is more than having an option to “press 2” for Spanish. Latinos are the fastest growing ethnic group. Research has shown that Latinos are the most loyal brand advocates of all of the ethnic groups. This, coupled with the average age of a Latinos being 27.4, compared to the overall population of 36.4, provides tremendous opportunities to attract, serve and generate repeat customers for many years to come.