Are Hispanics Raising the “Customer Service” Bar?

By Terry J. Soto, President of About Marketing Solutions, Inc.

Terry J. Soto is author of Marketing to Hispanics: A Strategic Approach to Assessing and Planning your Initiative and Grow with America Best Practices in Ethnic Marketing and Merchandising.

In a conference presentation this month, IPSOS, a marketing services company “confirmed” that, compared to non-Hispanics, customers of Hispanic descent are more avid and passionate in their relationships with brands and stores.

The presentation was based on a survey conducted among 100 Hispanic and 100 non-Hispanic female heads of households, which tested the differences in opinions about customer service, word of mouth and acting on bad service, revealed dramatic evidence that marketers appealing to Hispanic households need to be even more concerned about delighting these customers than marketers serving the general U.S. market.

According to the survey:

  • Hispanics are 50 percent more likely to stop shopping at a store because they felt they were treated rudely.
  • Hispanics are 40 percent more likely to report they’d told a friend not to shop at a store where they felt they were treated rudely.
  • Hispanics are 79 percent more likely to completely agree “big stores don’t treat you as well as smaller, neighborhood stores.”
  • Hispanics are 130 percent more likely to feel that when they shop at a big store (employees at these big stores) sometimes are not being as nice as they should be.

IPSOS contends that Hispanics are more loyal and expect more personal treatment by businesses and retailers; however, I would argue that it’s not so much that Hispanics expect “more personal” treatment or that the “reading of delight” on the barometer needs to be higher, but quite simply, that Hispanics expect “relevant” treatment.

Consider that the same study indicates that there is a stronger bond between Hispanics and smaller, neighborhood retailers than among non-Hispanics. So one might ask, are smaller retailers doing a “better” job at servicing Hispanics than non-Hispanics and is this being perceived as polite and respectful treatment? I guess that depends how one defines “better.” I assert that “better” among Hispanics basically means they want to be communicated to in Spanish and they expect to be serviced by employees who understand the more social nature of the shopping occasion among them.

So, are larger retailers, in fact, rude in their treatment of customers? Apparently, this is not the opinion among non-Hispanics. So one might conclude that large retailers’ “business as usual” customer service model works fine among non-Hispanics, but that “business as usual” does not translate among Hispanics and in many cases alienates them.

So the challenge for large retailers becomes defining what “better” means among their Hispanic customers. I suggest that “better” is really just “different” or, more specifically, culturally relevant. I would conclude that retailers must consider that “business as usual” has different dimensions when servicing different ethnic segments and these need to be recognized and integrated into customer service models or risk losing customers.

People who read this article were also interested in: