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SMALL AND MINORITY BUSINESS : Vietnamese Phone Center to Assist 25,000 California Firms

March 30, 1994|Susan Christian, Times staff writer

Ordering an 800 number or discussing the fine points of a customized telephone service for a business can be confusing enough without the added complication of a language barrier.

So Pacific Bell recently initiated its Vietnamese Business Center, designed to help the 25,000 Vietnamese businesses in California. The center has bilingual service representatives who can counsel customers in their native language.

Based in Tustin, the center officially opens its doors April 15, although customers have been able to place calls there since January by dialing (800) 799-2828. The center already receives about 70 calls a day.

"I came here 10 years ago, and I remember how difficult it was to learn English," said Mai Nguyen, director of the Vietnamese Business Center. "Nobody can learn a new language overnight."

Plans for the center were underway long before the United States opened trade with Vietnam earlier this year, said Linda Bonniksen, a spokeswoman for Pacific Bell. "It has been a long-term goal of the company," she said. "It was dictated by the evolving needs of our customers in California."

Already, Pacific Bell opened a Hispanic Business Center and a Korean Business Center in 1991, both based in Los Angeles; and a Chinese Business Center in San Francisco two years ago.

"The goal is to provide customers with service in the language they prefer to do business in," Bonniksen said.

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