Those who know me would think Spanish is my first language. I carry a slight accent and sometimes pause to find the right word in English.
I can assure you that’s not the case.
I grew up in a small town in Minnesota where English was the only language. My mother has always been fluent in both Spanish and English, but Spanish wasn’t needed, and we quickly became an English-speaking household.
That only lasted about six years. Then, we moved to Denver, where many people speak both Spanish and English. It was difficult because I hadn’t spoken a word of Spanish in my life!
I got away with it for about four years until one day my mom said, “It is really too bad that being Hispanic you don’t know how to speak your language. From now on, solo Espanol” - only Spanish.
Growing up around family, friends, neighbors, school mates and even teachers, who spoke Spanish all day, every day, made learning the language very easy. However, speaking the language isn’t enough. You need to be the language.
The Latino culture is very different to what I was used to seeing in Minnesota. We would get together four or five times a week for no particular reason. We are loud, close and do everything together. We always had visitors who would come over for a cup of coffee and end up staying for hours. All they really wanted was to talk, catch up on things, or to hear the latest chisme - gossip.
This brings me to the topic of talking to American Family’s Hispanic customers. The call is rarely simple.
When asked, “How may I help you?” Their response will start with what road they were on when the accident happened, but will quickly move to why they were on that road, where they were going, who they were going to see, and why they were going to see that person.
This is why most Spanish-speaking calls take an average of two to three minutes longer than English-speaking calls. We come across so many different accents, dialects, rates of speech, and countries that it really puts your listening skills to the test. Every call is a different story and can even be taken out of context if you are not paying close attention.
So when bilingual claims care center employees are asked, “What’s the main difference in claims called in by Hispanic customers?” we say the key to providing excellent customer service is to tratar los como familia - just treat them like family.
If we're able to do that, then the rest is just … another language.