Espanol.com Offers Bilingual Customer Service

Spanish-language e-tailer Espanol.com announced today that it is making bilingual customer service available to its users in time for the holiday season.

“This is part of our effort to focus on giving top notch customer service,” Espanol.com CEO and founder Kyle McNamara told the E-Commerce Times.

By combining ten in-house bilingual customer service representatives with ten others from Internet outsource provider eSupportNow, Espanol.com will provide its users with online chat assistance, live bilingual operators — through a toll-free line — and guaranteed response e-mail.

The services will be available from 8:30 a.m. to 12 a.m., Eastern Standard Time.

Through online chat, Espanol.com customers who require immediate attention will have their questions answered by bilingual service representatives without having to leave the Web site.

Additionally, Espanol.com is guaranteeing that it will respond to 80 percent of customer e-mails in less than four hours, and the remaining 20 percent who do not need immediate attention within 24 hours.

Building Brand Loyalty

The 28-year-old McNamara pointed out that while the Latino market definitely demands a high level of customer service, it also offers the potential for rich rewards.

“Once you built the trust, there is deep brand loyalty,” he explained.

Launched in October, Espanol.com has targeted Spanish speakers in the United States, Puerto Rico and Mexico with a $10 million (US$) advertising campaign.

The Web site has advertised in Spanish newsprint, television, and on such rival sites as El Sitio and Yahoo en Espanol.

McNamara noted that, aside from service, Espanol.com’s strong suit is its exclusives — such as Barney dolls that speak Spanish. In addition, the site offers hard-to-find books in Spanish and many spiritual items as well.

A Crowded Field

Despite its claim of uniqueness, Espanol.com is one of many Web sites that actively court the Latin market. Spanish language portals Yupi, StarMedia and El Sitio — as well as ventures by AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo! — are also targeting the burgeoning Spanish-speaking U.S. and Latin American niche.

Industry reports show that Latin American Internet users currently number between 2.5 and 7 million, but are expected to grow to between 5 million and 34 million by 2002.

Thus far, StarMedia (Nasdaq: STRM) is the biggest player in the field. The company has been buying companies at a rapid rate since its $105 million initial public offering in May. Backed by Chase Manhattan Bank, the company operates Spanish and Portuguese-language sites across the continent.

Buenos Aires, Argentina-based El Sitio also completed a $44 million private placement in June and has Spanish-language sites across Latin America and in the U.S., as well as a Portuguese-language site in Brazil. It claimed 300,000 users as of July and relies on a network of 80 journalists across Latin America to provide content for its localized sites.

First Mover

Nonetheless, McNamara believes that Espanol.com’s bilingual customer service and exclusive merchandise will put it solidly ahead of the pack.

“We have no competition because we’re a first mover with a six to eight month lead,” McNamara said.

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