Customer service standards decline

Not top-notch (DENNIS B MALLARI))


Dubai’s fast-paced growth in key industries has set off an “alarming” lag in customer service standards, new research has revealed.

The retail sector was singled out as performing lowest in customer service standards, according to rankings released yesterday by industry experts Joshua Group.

A survey by the United Kingdom-based customer service specialists has found that many firms in Dubai need to raise standards of customer service if the emirate is to sustain its position of regional leadership.

Ruth Field, Joshua Group’s vice-president for the Middle East, told Emirates Business that over the past seven years customer service levels in Dubai have fallen, with companies losing out financially as a result.

“This is something that is genuinely felt within the region – customer service levels are falling below the standard… and Dubai companies have to be losing money,” said Field.

She said companies are spending unnecessary time and money because of inefficient structures to tackle customer complaints.

“There’s such phenomenal growth taking place – the growth plan is huge. The challenge is that companies now need to – before they grow too far forward – put a stake in the ground and start looking at what they’re trying to achieve from a global perspective of people coming in and looking at the sustainability of it,” she said.

“It’s making sure they can sustain what they’ve got – and it will only be sustainable if they get the service standards right.”

The company said in a statement: “At best Dubai only achieves an average rating and in some areas, for example taking ownership of an issue and anticipating future needs, it falls well below the standards expected.”

The survey focused on indicators such as consistency of service, anticipation of customer needs, staff behaviour, and the timely delivery of orders in key sectors of automotive, hotels, restaurants, banking and retail.

The results show a delivery gap that is well below the international standards required for the majority of companies and organisations within Dubai to maintain their leadership position.

On consistency of service, Field said the gap that organisations need to make up is a “staggering” 53 per cent.

She said the area of staff behaviour indicated a 44 per cent gap, while anticipating customers’ needs showed that companies have a 56 per cent gap to compensate, and timely delivery of orders indicated a 62 per cent gap.

“These are areas we think Dubai needs to start addressing. It’s a fantastic showcase here and the world is looking at it. But all organisations, whether government or private, need to put customers at the heart of everything they do. They can’t build their businesses around what they think their customers needs are,” Field said.

She added that failing to deliver products or services on time performed the worst among the customer service areas surveyed.

The survey, Professional Opinion on Customer Service, is Joshua Group’s first to target Dubai and forms part of plans to conduct a repeat census of the emirate every six months. “We need to give it a six-month window to see if there’s any improvement. The idea is, over the course of several years, to build up a score-card of how Dubai is developing in this area.”

The group, an independent business development and training consultancy with offices in Dubai and the UK, works with government and private sectors clients around the world. Its clients in the region include the British Council, Visit Britain, the British Embassy and Internet City in Dubai, as well as the British Council in Abu Dhabi and Qatar, and said it has several other UAE partnerships in the pipeline. Field said the company works extensively with the government and several police forces in the UK and this is an area it is looking to work with in Dubai.

In Dubai to launch the firm’s World Class Customer Service model, Field said the key to the “tool box” model is that it is a complete framework to develop and sustain successful customer service by going beyond telling organisations where the problems lie, to provide the tools and “how to” steps needed to put it right.