Handle e-CRM With Care, Por Favor
Companies are doing a poor job handling email responses to the growing Hispanic market, according to Don DePalma, president of market research firm Common Sense Advisory. For its recent study the company sent out four separate email messages to each of the 50 top Internet retailers in English and in Spanish. Common Sense used 17 different servers to hide the fact that all the questions were coming from the same source. The messages were: where to buy products; a request for more information regarding the Web site; a minor complaint; and a compliment with a question requiring a response.
Only four of the top Internet retailers offer content in Spanish, according to the survey. Few could respond in Spanish to inquiries sent, or offered Web forms in that language. The post-survey report cited 1-800-Flowers as doing a particularly good job, offering English and Spanish Web sites. Though the English Web site doesn't have Spanish information on it, it does have a link for users to reach the Spanish site, which looks similar, but has less content.
The lack of responses in Spanish was the most glaring finding in the study, but it wasn't the only one: Some 30 percent of companies didn't respond to queries at all--even if they were sent in English.
"Companies are not investing in email response systems, particularly for the Latino market," DePalma says, adding that such lack of investment will drive Hispanic customers to Internet retailers that do a better job of answering their queries. "Some did an excellent job, but many left the customer hanging."
This failure hurts companies' CRM efforts as the Hispanic market grows in this country, and as companies look for international expansion, according to DePalma, who points out that Hispanic residents represent 13 percent of the U.S. population. Also, they represent the fifth-largest group of Spanish speakers in the world. Perhaps more important for Internet retailers to realize is that the U.S. Hispanic population goes online more than any Latino nation, and averages more page views than American Web users.
With no answers to their emails, potential buys will click away to another retailer more interested in answering their questions, or will contact the first company's call center, which is a more expensive service option than an automated email response, according to DePalma. Offering FAQs in different languages on the Web site may be a way to begin to target this missed opportunity, DePalma says. He cites as an example L.L. Bean, which offers Spanish, French, German, and Japanese FAQs under International Help on its site.
"The first step is for companies to recognize this problem and then recognize how important the Hispanic market is to them," DePalma says. "Then they can invest in email response systems to help solve this problem. Companies are investing in other technologies and staffing, but not in the necessary email response systems."
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