PITTSBURGH – As a small child, Jacqueline Horta Krakowski learned both Spanish and English. Her parents, who emigrated from Cuba to Brooklyn, N.Y., spoke only Spanish, but her four older siblings learned English in school and also taught her.
After becoming fluent in both Spanish and English, she chose to learn Italian in middle school and high school because she wanted to add another language to her repertoire.
She didn’t know at the time, but her love of languages would prepare her for a career as a bilingual customer care analyst and coach for colleagues at PNC Bank, which provides service in more than 170 languages.
“I remember that when I was little, my brother’s fiancé was shocked that I would switch from Spanish to English when I was talking,” Krakowski said. “I didn’t understand her surprise at the time because I learned the two languages together.”
Even though she had a clear talent for language, Krakowski had her heart set on becoming a veterinarian, lawyer or even the president of the United States. “I wanted to be a lot of different things, but they were all related to helping people and understanding people,” Krakowski said.
Krakowski started college with these goals in mind, but never finished. Instead, she dedicated her time to raising her three children, working in various jobs when she was able. While working in telemarketing, car sales and scheduling appointments for water testing, Krakowski always wanted to use her Spanish to help customers but never had the opportunity.
In February 2011, Krakowski enlisted her husband, Alan, to help her find a new position. Once he showed her a job posting for a bilingual customer care position at PNC, she knew immediately that she had found her ideal career.
“It was five years ago now, but I still remember how excited I was to apply for the position and then receive the call that I had landed the job,” Krakowski said. “It was the perfect opportunity to use my Spanish and help people.”
Fluent in both Spanish and English at four years old, she helped her parents translate information, like paper work, parent-teacher conference materials and U.S. citizenship information – an experience that she keeps in mind to this day when helping Spanish-speaking customers.
“I understand how it feels to need a translator,” Krakowski said. “It’s really a challenge when you come from another country and you don’t know the language, so seeing my parents go through that helps me relate to our Spanish-speaking customers.”
In her customer care role and as senior bilingual coaching consultant, Krakowski helps Spanish-speaking customers with their account questions, helps recruit bilingual employees and also coaches other PNC consultants.
Krakowski and her colleagues assist Spanish-speaking customers with a wide range of questions. “We handle calls from all different directions, including business banking, loan servicing and credit cards. It’s very exciting and rewarding to work with customers in their native language across so many different areas,” she said.
In addition to helping customers with their initial questions, Krakowski prides herself on personalizing each interaction by listening closely to each customer’s situation and offering information about other support or services.
In the end, it’s all about people, so it’s important to listen to them and help them. I like to end a call and know that I made a difference in the customer’s life and that it will be easier for them to call next time knowing that we can speak their language.
Even when the work day is done, Krakowski has found ways to help others. When her youngest daughter wanted to help homeless people around Pittsburgh, Krakowski and her husband helped her make bags with practical items and then delivered them to people in need. “It was a little thing for us, but it felt really good,” she said.
After making her own ATM transaction, she encountered a customer who didn’t know how to use the machine to make a deposit. “I told the customer that I work for PNC and could help,” she said. “It was easy for me to do, and it was a big help to that customer.”
Resources for Hispanic customers include:
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