For this week's blog, we will explore the Spanish language and automated customer service market for Spanish-speaking customers. Despite Spain's late entry into the market for chatbots, there are many facts and trends in the market worth exploring.
The origins of Spanish can be traced back to the Iberian Peninsula, where the language developed from a number of dialects of Vulgar Latin. Spanish is a Romance language that shares many features with other Romance languages, such as Italian, Portuguese, and French.
It is the third most spoken language on the Internet after English and Mandarin Chinese, and the second most spoken European language after English (Source: Internet World Stats).
Spanish is the official language in 21 countries, including Spain, Mexico, Argentina, and Chile. It is also one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Among all the countries with Spanish speakers, Mexico has the largest population speaking Spanish, which is up to 110 million.
In Spanish, exclamation marks and question marks are inverted to highlight the exclamation and question parts of a sentence. sentence. For example: Jose, ¿adónde vas? – Jose, where are you going?
Spanish is a relatively easy language for English speakers, with its grammar and vocabulary being quite similar to that of English. One of the things that make Spanish grammar reasonably easy to learn is that there are no articles (the equivalent of "the" or "a") and there are only two verb tenses (present and past). Additionally, there are only three verb conjugations (for -ar, -er, and -ir verbs), so once you learn the conjugation for one verb, you can apply it to all verbs in that category.
However, like any language, some challenges still come with learning Spanish. For one, the pronunciation can be challenging, as many words are pronounced differently than they are spelt. The use of gender can be confusing, as all nouns in Spanish are either masculine or feminine.
The Spanish government has recently passed a bill that is expected to include additional rules on customer service. One of the outstanding rules is that the use of automated answering machines or similar as the sole medium of customer service is prohibited.
However, you should realise that this is not to say the use of automated customer service should be limited. Instead, this additional rule emphasises the importance of omnichannel, that is, complementing automated customer service with other service channels, such as telephones.
The draft bill also highlights concerns over providing customer service to older people and people with disabilities who require more streamlined customer service channels. Other alternative channels businesses should use are written messaging systems and video systems that incorporated sign language interpretation.
Although the COVID-19 situation has accelerated the growth of digital sales and services in Mexico, as of 2022, only 74% of the population has access to the Internet, compared with over 90% in the UK and Spain. This relative lack of access to digital tools requires businesses to continue to build their customer service capacity through call centres and text messaging apps.
According to research by Santander about consumer behaviour in Mexico, customer service becomes increasingly important and time-saving is one of the leading purchasing criteria. Customers value quick responses from businesses before, during and after purchase.
The 2021 Mexico Customer Service Index Study by J.D. Power focused on the customer’s time as the key performance indicator (KPI). Customers’ waiting time for assistance and advice at automobile dealerships has a significant impact on customer satisfaction scores. Reducing the time taken in talking with service advisors and completing the paperwork will improve the customer service index score by as much as 82 points, using a 1000-point scale
In Spain, as a result of mounting complaints about long wait times, new customer service law will limit telephone waiting time for general information, claims or after-care services to a maximum of three minutes.
Additionally, complaints must be satisfactorily resolved within 15 days (reduced from 30 days) and if a customer is affected by service interruptions, such as an electricity or internet outrage, companies must tell the person what the problem is and provide a solution within two hours.
Guaranteeing a faster response requires your businesses to not only scale up your customer service team but also explore chatbot options, such as Algomo, in reducing waiting time at a lower cost.
Mainstream conversational AI builders, such as the Watson engine by IBM and Dialogueflow all support Spanish. The multilingual trend in automated customer service is on the rise. While English is the basic language most conversational AI supports, there is huge potential for chatbots in Spanish.
According to a report by Market Research in 2019, over the forecast period (2019-2025), spending on AI is expected to record a CAGR of 29.2%, increasing from US$ 597.8 million in 2019 to reaching US$ 3,585.4 million by 2025. In addition, Spain is one of the leading countries in Europe that keep up with the growing market size of conversational AI there, which is expected to witness a market growth of 15.9% CAGR from 2021 to 2027.
In 2018, Mexico has joined some of the world’s most technically advanced and ambitious nations by launching a national artificial intelligence (AI) strategy, facilitating the applications of AI technologies in various industries. Breaking down AI market size according to industries, the expected size of spending in chatbots between 2019 and 2025 ranks top 10 for almost all industries, ranging from banking and finance, insurance, healthcare and public sectors. (Source: Market Research)
Spanish banks and finance companies are increasingly using automated customer service. In 2017, imaginBank, Spain's first-ever mobile-only bank, launched the Spanish banking sector’s first chatbot. The chatbot service specialises in providing information and assistance to help customers benefit from offers and promotions. The chatbot service integrates well with other services provided by imaginBank since the company aimed squarely at the digital natives, a part of the population with particularly high smartphone use. Many financial institutions in Spain aren’t just using AI to deliver conversational banking experiences. They’re also using it to fight the rising tide of fraud.
The potential of chatbots in playing a role in improving the healthcare industry in Spain is primarily unleashed during the COVID-19 period. A technology company, Sngular, and AI experts from the Government of Spain have built a Hispabot-COVID19 chatbot (Hispabot), which is integrated into Whatsapp, the leading platform for messaging in Spain. Hispabot is aimed to provide the most needed and accurate information during the COVID-19 crisis. The chatbot is essential in helping to reduce the pressure on healthcare hotlines. This allows the phone lines open for people that really need to speak to a doctor, ensuring better allocation of healthcare resources during difficult times.
In Mexico, the AI strategies by the government highlighted efforts in taking advantage of AI technologies to increase the efficiency and quality of service in the public sector. In 2022, the National Institute of Transparency, Access to Information, and Protection of Personal Data (INAI), an autonomous body of the government of Mexico, deployed an AI-powered chatbot that is accessible on both the INAI website and WhatsApp. The chatbot aims to bring the right of access to information and protection of personal data closer to anyone who has access to a mobile phone and who has Internet access. More seamless and accurate communications between government bodies and citizens brought by chatbots demonstrate the potential of chatbots in empowering the government as well.
Besides, in Mexico, there is substantial potential to be unlocked in the e-commerce industry. Mexico is a Latin American country with the most e-commerce with 85% of people buying at least one product or service on the internet in the previous year. Automated customer service is greatly valuable in dealing with relatively simple and repetitive queries during E-commerce transactions.
Zaion, a French technology start-up, has quite a strong presence in Spanish-speaking countries. It specializes in voice bot that aims to provide a precise response through telephone lines. It believes that the telephone will continue to be the most used and preferred medium of communication by both customers and users. However, as the business expands, there are some concerns from customers over its pace in catching up with the resources and IT capacities it can support.
Being part of the highly competitive European market, most of the automated customer service companies based in Spain are start-ups or small-medium enterprises. Among them, Chatbot Chocolate has been active in promoting its services and has founded one of the largest chatbot news portals in Spain, the Planeta Chatbot. The company has a strong focus on providing automated customer service across all possible channels. Currently, they provide solutions compatible with social media platforms like WhatsApp, Instagram, and Telegram as well as business management tools such as Google Business and Microsoft Teams. Out of its more than 100 customers, many of the big names are from the retail industry, such as Nestle, and Desigual, a Spanish fashion label.
Government regulations and lack of technology accessibility can pose challenges in providing automated customer service to Spanish-speaking consumers in Spain and Mexico. Still, it is crucial for businesses to make good use of technologies, such as those by Algomo to complement human agents with virtual assistants. Spanish-speaking customers represent a huge customer group and you will never want to miss opportunities due to inefficient and poor-quality customer service.