Are Hispanics Raising the “Customer Service” Bar?

Discussion
Jun 29, 2005

Editorial by Terry Soto, President & CEO, About Marketing Solutions, Inc.

(www.aboutmarketingsolutions.com)

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.

Moderator’s Comment: How well do most retail organizations adapt to different ethnic customers? Which retailers stand out for their ability to adapt
to the different needs of the demographic groups represented in their customer base?

Terry Soto – Moderator

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5 Comments on "Are Hispanics Raising the “Customer Service” Bar?"

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Brad Anderson
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Brad Anderson
12 years 1 month ago

HEB is very good in Texas; Ranch Market in Phoenix is great; Superior Warehouse, Northgate and Villarta are very good in Los Angeles. All of these make themselves culturally relevant and provide services that make sense to the Hispanic shoppers. In the LA market, the stores also provide shuttle service and tortilla factories in store for use by customers. The atmosphere in the stores is relevant; the music is relevant; the pricing is relevant. The big chain stores do not provide any of the same experiences. Food 4 Less provides Spanish language and clerks who speak Spanish, but that is not as relevant as the total store experience and shuttle service. HEB does a better job than most other big chains.

David Livingston
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12 years 1 month ago

I am married to a Hispanic woman and I can tell you that she is about 300% more likely to yell at me if I’m doing something wrong compared to women of other cultures.

Obviously HEB, to me, is the front runner for adapting to the Hispanic culture. So much in fact that they have expanded into Mexico. Sometimes I get the feeling that HEB gets more respect from Hispanic Roman Catholics in Texas than the Pope.

Another one of my favorites is Western Beef in the NYC area. They seemed to have gotten the “respect” of their customers. They operate in some difficult, high minority areas and I have never heard of one of their stores being robbed. When the store manager can park his Mercedes convertible cocked sideways in the parking lot with the top down all day, and no one touches it – that is respect!

Arlene Jones
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Arlene Jones
12 years 1 month ago
I am in Chicago. I am watching Hispanic-owned stores going out of business while non-Hispanic stores are taking over. An example would be Tony’s Finer Foods that is Italian-owned but is serving the Hispanic market. Or Delray Farm Foods which again has put a Hispanic name on a non-Hispanic owned chain. As areas in Chicago gentrify from Hispanic to Yuppie, the ability of those stores to remain will be totally based on how loyal that consumer market is to that business. I am unsure about the loyalty aspect. I grew up buying salsa made by LaPreferida. Sometimes the one by La Victoria. Now whenever I want prepared salsa, finding one made by a Hispanic company is almost impossible. Even in the Hispanic-owned stores, the shelf space for Goya, La Preferida and La Victoria is getting shrunken by non-Hispanic owned company products. Whose loyalty (or lack thereof) is causing this phenomena? How much loyalty is involved when one can save a penny? Goya had the inroad for years on canned beans and peas. Now other brands are taking up space on the shelf and Goya is getting smaller. Store loyalty is also being tested when major food chains emphasize certain ethnic… Read more »
Al McClain
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Al McClain
12 years 1 month ago

There may be another factor to this and that is hidden or even unintended discrimination. When non-minority shoppers are treated badly by large stores (or any stores), they probably just chalk it up to the poor state of customer service today. When minorities are treated badly, they may wonder if just a bit of that is because they are a minority. And, it’s natural that Hispanics feel more comfortable with local or corner stores, since they are more likely to speak their language. Mainstream retailers seeking to better appeal to Hispanics can help the situation by hiring more Spanish speaking employees, who can switch languages on command.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
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M. Jericho Banks PhD
12 years 1 month ago

Terry Soto knocked one out of the park with her comments today. Her “relevance” argument is precisely what we’re hearing from our Hispanic customers.

Plus, Terry asked a great question. Large retail operations, like chain supermarkets and other mass merchants, simply haven’t the ABILITY to micro-market to every cultural minority or demographic they serve. Once they’ve become as inexpensive, friendly, convenient, and well-stocked as possible, they’ve pretty much exhausted their options.

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