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Speak the Culture


Cheerful latin home designer is on the phone and looking away.  She is sitting at the desk. Candid shoot.

Cheerful latin home designer is on the phone and looking away. She is sitting at the desk. Candid shoot.

Speaking the language

is only part of doing business with Hispanic customers. To truly engage them, you need to speak their cultures when providing call or contact center services.


I’m a native of Lima, Peru, where Spanish is the official language. I grew up in Texas, where more than 12% of the residents, about 2.4 million, are Spanish-speaking.

Same language. But diverse cultures—with different needs and expectations.

Having led bilingual call and contact center services in the United States and abroad, I’ve learned there are many nuances to getting it right.

Understanding Hispanic cultures—and not just speaking their languages—is essential to serve Hispanic or Latino customers well, especially in America as those populations continue to increase.

2012 U.S. Census reports
38 million
spanish speaking residents

In the U.S., Spanish is the main language spoken at home by more than 38 million residents. That number is a few years old, according to a 2012 census.

No doubt, the number of Spanish-speaking residents is more today, which means the need for culturally attuned services is even greater.

In business, I’ve worked with Spanish-speaking Hispanics and English-speaking Hispanics, as well as those who are Mexican or Puerto Rican. Each group is distinct, bringing its own lifestyle and preferences.

In selecting a call or contact center outsourcer that understands the differences, it’s best to keep a few things in mind.

Identify with Customers

It’s important that a provider not only know, but identify with, the customers being served.

For instance, 65% of the U.S. Hispanic population is of Mexican descent. Within this segment, consumers often decide to do business with a company based on cultural fit and trust.

If your agents only speak Spanish, but are not true to the culture, chances are they will not connect. It’s all about knowing who is on the other end of the line and what motivates decision-making.

It makes sense then to select agents who are not only fluent in the dialect, but understand the subtleties of that Hispanic culture as well.

Of the U.S. hispanic population,
are of Mexican descent

Integrate Culture Throughout

Culture-first thinking has to be foundational and integrated when serving Hispanic customers.

Based on this, cultural awareness should be incorporated throughout contact center operations. This spans recruiting to onboarding—and especially training and day-to-day program management.

Too often, however, big-box outsourcers know nothing of it. Just because they have Spanish-speaking sites nearshore doesn’t mean they specialize in the Hispanic customers you want to serve.

Location isn’t the same as insight. Hispanic customers recognize the difference. And they reward genuine service—from initial contact to ongoing support—with their business.

Establish Rapport First

Most transactions with Hispanic customers require more handle time. There’s a need to establish rapport first.

With first-generation Hispanics, word of mouth plays an important role when choosing a product or service. On major purchases, the family patriarch can play a key role in the final buying decision, which means knowing how to engage him.

Second generation-plus Hispanics value relationships as well, but their service expectations might differ. In most cases, they like to speak their native language, if given the option.

But they also have a greater sense of urgency in being served. While second generation-plus Hispanics might be engaged initially through language and culture, agents still should be responsive in addressing their needs.

Build Lasting Relationships

Building a lasting relationship with Hispanic customers might require more effort. Once convinced, they are loyal. They also go through less churn than the general market—and over time, average higher order values. Such customers, in fact, become brand advocates.

Whether in America or abroad, I find the best call or contact center services are always seamlessness. That requires an outsourcer to be in tune with the client’s business and customers.

Or, as famed cellist Pablo Casals once said: “The most perfect technique is that which is not noticed at all.”

See what I mean. Or given the right services provider, perhaps you won’t.