NEW YORK Since Spanish speakers eat as much pizza as anyone else, you might think that most delivery companies are able to field calls in that language. But, you'd be wrong.
This month, Domino's Pizza is becoming one of the first companies to serve up an automated language ordering system catering to Spanish-dominant Hispanics. The move is part of a push to target the fast-growing U.S. Latino population.
The ordering service provides Spanish-speaking customers nationwide a toll-free number, 1-888-Dominos, to place orders via a system that boasts a personable, digital Latina voice free of regional accents, phrases and, with apologies to the theater industry, sounds reminiscent of the Moviefone guy.
The technology for the voice service, created by Microsoft subsidiary Tellme, Mountain View, Calif., answers incoming customer service calls, converts them to URL requests and pulls data from Web-based services, providing automated information to the caller, said Rob Weisberg, Domino's vp, precision and print marketing.
"With this platform, every store that is part of this program now essentially has hired themselves an entire staff of people who speak Spanish and can embrace the Spanish-speaking consumer," said Rob Weisberg. "And to a greater degree, we're now able to leverage the Hispanic-targeted media that we're buying."
A TV and radio campaign breaking this month, themed "Tienes 30 minutos" ("You've got 30 minutes"), by LatinWorks, Austin, Texas, prominently features the phone number for those wishing to order in Spanish.
Offering the Spanish ordering service in some 2,000 stores in 42 states with large Hispanic populations is a strategic move to get ahead of competitors which, like Domino's, already give customers an online option for ordering in Spanish. At the same time, the pizza chain wants to ensure that Latinos will become longtime return customers.
"We spend all of this money on Spanish-language media every year because we want to embrace these consumers; then they would pick up the phone to call our stores and find that they couldn't actually speak to someone who speaks Spanish," Weisberg said.
In the past, frustrated consumers would hang up their phones, or would muddle through conversations with non-Spanish speaking Domino's workers, with some callers even resorted to putting their young English-speaking children on the phone to place their orders, Weisberg said.
"We didn't feel that was doing a very good job of making the Hispanic consumer feel comfortable calling us, embracing them and living up to the promise of service that we strive to achieve," he added.
Spending for the campaign was not available. The pizza chain spent almost $20 million on U.S. Hispanic TV in 2007, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.
Domino's is currently testing a similar automated system in English for the general market, but chose to push ahead to market with the Spanish-language version in an effort to stay ahead of the competition.