When surveyed, most U.S. citizens that exclusively speak English and have no other family members that speak Spanish or another language, are strongly opposed to the fact that they need to “press 1 for English” in a call center script. However, our findings show that although most are opposed to the fact that they need to actively select language, it does not hurt sales.
When surveyed, as many as 40% said they will only press 1 for English when they have to (when they have to make a choice), but only a very small percentage will actually end the call, or choose not to do business with the vendor if they are forced to choose English. In other words, what ever ire is created is very short lived and does not affect the overall opinion of the product or service.
Therefore, retailers and service companies that sell in areas with a Hispanic population of even 5% or higher are better served if their call center, and the menu selections of their answering service, offer Spanish in addition to English.
However, there are two ways to set up call center menu scripts when potential customers call, and for those that are offended by the fact that they need to actively select English, one option produces far better results than the other.
We advise that the caller should be forced to actively select Spanish by pushing a number on their keypad, however, it should be clear to the caller that if they do nothing, English will be the default language. Scripting your call center in this fashion produced almost a 3 to 1 more favorable result in focus groups immediately after they had been asked to navigate a call center automated menu.
On the flip side, Mexican Americans in Los Angeles and other Spanish speaking areas (Puerto Rico in New York or Cuban Americans in Miami) are not offended if they have to actively select Spanish in order for the menu to continue in Spanish. Latinos generally expect English to be the primary language of business, even if they almost exclusively speak Spanish inside their own communities. (This applies to other languages as well, such as Chinese. There are many blocks inside Chinatown in New York City and San Francisco where almost no English is spoken inside the community.)
Unlike in other countries, there is no legal obligation for a merchant to act one way or another, and they are free to conduct business entirely in Spanish or Cantonese for that matter! In 2006 the U.S. Senate voted 62 to 36 in favor of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act, but the language contained in the bill is not very strong, and vaguely talks about English being “the common and unifying language of the United States” and not the official language of the U.S.
Even in Canada for example, the Province of Quebec has enacted legislation to protect the French language over English. For example, in signage, French mush be listed first, and the font size on certain signs must by law be larger than the English.
However, it’s estimated that 20% of the U.S. population over age 5 speaks a language other than English. That’s roughly 50 million potential buyers with billions of purchasing power. The facts are clear. Until it is demonstrated that “pro English buyers” will walk away from a product or service if they do not clearly favor English, get used to “para espanol, oprima numero dos.”