Dubai must significantly improve customer service standards in key industries if it aims to maintain its regional leadership position, customer service specialists Joshua Group have said following the results of a new survey.
Research conducted by the firm's Dubai office has revealed what it calls "alarming trends", including a substantial drop in customer service levels that puts the emirate below international standards. The group said low standards are causing companies to lose out financially, and that a customer-centric approach is vital to Dubai's service leadership.
Vice-President for the Middle East Ruth Field said the data shows that over the past few years customer service levels have fallen, with the retail sector showing the lowest scores in standards.
Can you give us some details about the new report – what are the major customer service trends?
The survey looked at five sectors in particular – automotive, hotels, banking, restaurants and retail. We mainly looked at areas of consistency of service, anticipating customers' needs, staff behaviour and timely delivery of orders. Results showed that on consistency of service, the gap that organisations need to make up is a staggering 53 per cent. On staff behaviour, there is a 44 per cent gap, on anticipating customers' needs, 56 per cent, and on timely delivery of orders, 62 per cent. These are areas Dubai needs to start addressing.
Where do the standards of customer service in Dubai stand compared to other regions?
Over the past seven years we've seen customer service levels in Dubai fall below the standard and it's supported in the data. This is something that is genuinely felt within the region.
Which are the sectors that show the lowest customer service standards?
The retail sector shows the lowest scores in the survey. Also, the area of timely delivery of orders performed the worst among customer service.
What is the main reason behind the low standing?
It's no great surprise. It's because there's such phenomenal growth taking place – the growth plan is huge. This is a fantastic opportunity for Dubai because it's showcasing some of the best things in the world and all eyes are on it. The challenge now, before they grow too far forward, is to put a stake in the ground and start looking at what they're trying to achieve from a global perspective. It's got to come from a government level and needs to be driven right through Dubai for it to remain sustainable.
How much would a company have to allocate towards driving customer service strategies?
It depends on the size of the organisation – it's difficult to quantify how much they would budget. They've got to put the infrastructure right to begin with. There is a cost implementation but the rewards would be two-fold, they would be phenomenal. It takes time and money but when you think about the investment that's here, it's a small price to pay because what they'll end up with is sustainability and customers staying loyal.
What time frame would Dubai be looking at to bring standards up to international levels?
They have to start now. If it were a concerted effort, if they decided at the government level that they were going to push it through, it would happen very quickly. I don't think it would take five-10 years necessarily. A wind of change could take place very quickly but it needs commitment from a senior level to do that.
Are you working on any specific partnerships?
We're working on several. There are a few coming up in Abu Dhabi that are huge in terms of sectors.
PROFILE: Ruth Field, Vice-President of Middle East, Joshua Group
Ruth Field has collaborated with senior executive teams on strategic business issues, taking a pragmatic approach to delivering sustainable improvements. She has worked with a broad range of clients, including British foreign office agencies in Dubai, the Welsh Assembly Government in the UK and City of London Police. She is also a regular BBC Radio contributor on customer service excellence, has been widely published in customer service journals and is a former finalist of Business Woman of the Year.