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Sun 19 Mar 2017 08:36 AM

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Telephone banking in Dubai is about as frustrating as it gets

Comment: Financial institutions say they are investing in customer service, but they don’t act like it.

Telephone banking in Dubai is about as frustrating as it gets
Ethics: UAE banks need to improve their customer service.

I am a confident person who is pretty good at reading a situation and knowing when to speak up or shut up. But I lose all self control and I resort to an immature stereotype of the worst kind when I am forced to deal with a UAE bank’s customer service department over the phone.

All of my financial commitments are tied to a local bank: automatic debit for Apple, Kindle and Netflix; credit card; savings account; overseas transactions.

So when I read my caller ID moments after the barista returned my card for the AED15 triple shot ice shaken espresso from Starbucks (something I am pretty sure I have ordered for the past 4,800 days I have lived in the UAE), my better self begins to recede.

I answer the call (because I know if I don’t I will lose all spending privileges until I give in and call the bank back) with as much tentative politeness as I can muster. It is a chore at this moment to be nice. I know it, and I’m sure the person on the other end can hear it in my voice.

I am then walked through five security confirmation questions, and I can think of nothing except this quote from goodsecurityquestions.com (which looks specifically at internet banking, but could, in this instance, apply to telephone banking): “In reality, there are few if any good security questions”.

It starts with the caller asking me for my phone number (simple, but the level of frustration begins to escalate because 1. how can this be a legitimate security question and 2. this isn’t a legitimate security question); next is my PO Box number (fair enough); then my name (when I say “it’s a hyphenated surname” things start to get a little dicey). This is as far as I get. Three questions. I went in to have a coffee and relax. Instead, I am trying – and so badly failing – to remain polite.

In the US, the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council has issued guidelines for internet banking authentication. It would be nice if the UAE could develop a similar document for telephone banking.

There should be greater care on the part of banks to make customers believe the bank’s telephone representative is not just reading a script. Banks should not pay lip service to what all financial institutions promise.

A 2013 survey carried out by iProspect and Arabian Business found that more than half of the UAE population wants to switch to a better bank after suffering poor customer service. The research also highlighted that in UAE retail banking, there is a distinct disparity between what is promised and what is delivered.

According to customerservice.ae, a financial comparison site in the UAE, 60 percent of customers would not recommend their bank; while less than 50 percent of UAE banks have customer service as a principal focus, according to an Ethos Consultancy’s Annual Bank Benchmarking Index survey.

Let’s face it: we all need a bank. The problem is the banks know we need them – and they act like it.


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james 3 years ago

Yes we have all been through this, so we feel the pain, and sadly there is no end to it.

Careful though, or you might be labeled as a hater.

Julian 3 years ago

Love it, speaking from everybody's heart!!! And let's be honest, banking is just an example....

Christine 3 years ago

Business banking is even worse! Recently I spent about 15 hours in total trying to get a wrong PO Box no. corrected and a PIN no. for a debit card to be sent to the correct PO Box. FAILED. Not possible. Bank refuses to cooperate and claims client made mistake upon account opening. Hence not the bank's fault. They also don't believe in correcting any wrong data and insist that it remains as it is. Apparently in this country they only want the mega corporation business and small SME's are tortured with appalling service, ignorance and encouraged to give up.

J H 3 years ago

We had a situation where someone in Italy used my card (supposedly) and after showing that my passport had never been to Italy and waiting for the bank to remove the charge we finally ended up quitting the bank just to get rid of this constant reminder of the terrible service level here.

Telcoguy 3 years ago

ahhhhhh.... such sweet memories.
Wait until you need to get a compliance bond and have it delivered to another GCC country.
And keep in mind that the most incompetent people you ever met are the one who can send you to jail if they mess up with a cheque.

but fear not, the official cheerleader will promptly join us to explain how this is the best banking service in the galaxy.

twistedtory 3 years ago

We desperately need a serious disrupter to the banking system in order to force it to reform, as the entrenched fifedoms and hierarchies have thus far proved resistant to change and to pressure from their very own customer bases. Yes, they do know that we need them and, therefore, do all they can to exploit the fact that we are weak, dependent on them. Perhaps the Minister of Happiness might intervene on our behalf?

Shanti 3 years ago

Absolutely 100% true. Its frustrating to answer their stupid security questions. The banks personnel are born with brain dead but with arrogance. My nationality in the banks books were shown as UAE, while the passport that I submitted while opening the account is Indian. Are they dumb to not even check this? How many ever times I repeatedly ask them, how is that possible when I have submitted my Indian passport, can be a UAE national? I am only a resident here... goes to dumb head. At last finally after big fights got it changed. They just hire some useless staff who speak like a machine, with one question only. Same with Etisalat also.

Placid Rego 3 years ago

Telephone Banking & Customer Service in the UAE - It's a nightmare .

Patrick 3 years ago

I'm afraid it is not only the phone banking that is terrible, it is the entire banking system, have you ever tried to deal with a bank face to face, the attitude is take it or leave it.. I'd rather be humiliated over then phone rather than face to face. The UAE needs professional bankers and not some imposters posing as bankers. The good thing is that they are all terrible so there is some consistency here.

savio 3 years ago

Banking service overall in Dubai is a total joke. Best Airline, highest tower, great life, beautiful hotels, booming financial sector. A lot of flagship to be pride of!! But banking service is a total disgrace. Local banks, international banks same !!!