UAE banks promise better customer service; do you believe them?

Increased competitive pressure in the UAE is making companies try harder to keep their client numbers. (Dennis B Mallari)

Visit any online forum or social media group in the UAE, and you’re bound to find conversations veering towards customer service – or the lack of it.

A general theme is customers complaining about the below-average service meted out to them and the callous attitude of the customer service staff employed to attend to their grievances.

Previous studies show that poor customer service costs UAE firms millions of dirhams. Whether it’s in the banking industry or retail, customers complain they never get satisfactory answers and the need to continuously follow-up with companies can drive many up the wall.

But as consumer complaints grow, companies and business say they are trying harder to please their kings and queens in business and want to invest in initiatives that can build their reputation and keep customers happy.

The Collinson Group, a company that studies customer behaviour, sees an increased competitive pressure in the UAE that is making companies try harder to keep their customer numbers and business by keeping their clients happy and loyal.

This is clearly evident in financial services in the country, where customer loyalty is the most fickle and customer service the most elusive. The study highlights that three quarters (75 per cent) of board members and senior managers at UAE financial services organisations are most concerned about increased competition over the next 12 months with services providers such as banks, credit card companies and insurers trying harder to improve customer service.

Thus, investment in loyalty and other customer engagement initiatives looms large on the priority list of UAE financial executives.

Over the next 12 months, almost half (48 per cent) plan to invest in developing and improving customer loyalty initiatives, whereas two-fifths (39 per cent) anticipate engaging with customers via digital and social channels of importance.

Many institutions in the UAE are in fact shunning “traditional” communication channels and engaging with customers using social methods in order to satisfy the needs of the increasingly mobile-focused customer.

“Financial services executives in the UAE recognise that building emotional engagement with their customers will help combat the threat of losing customers in an increasingly competitive marketplace. With such a high proportion of short-term residents, UAE providers need to constantly work to win over new customers – and prove to existing ones they have made the right choice,” says Christopher Evans, Director, Collinson Group.

“This depends on doing two things right. First, they need to invest in gaining insights to better understand their customers and, second, they must seek to add value at all customer interaction points in a relevant way,” he adds.

In fact, financial services companies in the UAE are trying harder on these fronts than those in strong competitive markets like the UK and Singapore.

The Collinson findings show that a bigger number of respondents (45 per cent) in the UAE are trying to ensure a consistent customer experience as compared with 27 per cent in Singapore.

More UAE respondents want to achieve brand differentiation – 45 per cent as compared with 32 per cent in the UK. The need to harness customer insights and data is also higher in the UAE (45 per cent compared with 33 per cent in the UK).

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