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Wed 25 Nov 2009 07:23 AM

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UAE banks need to improve customer service - poll

Arabian Business survey reveals widespread criticism of banking sector services.

UAE banks need to improve their customer service across the board, the results of the latest Arabian Business survey show.

When asked if there were too many banks operating in the country, some 53.8 percent of people said they did not care about the number because service was “terrible wherever you go.”

Earlier this month, the Bank Benchmarking Study of 27 UAE banks found service quality had gone up 9.3 percent to 78.2 percent, compared to 68.9 percent last year.

This was because of a shift in banks’ attitudes towards customer retention following the financial crisis, the study by Ethos Consultancy said.

The top ranking bank in the Ethos study was RAKbank, who has held the title for the last four years and at the same time has managed to see customer number rise by 15 percent, profits jump 10 percent in the first nine months of this year and has not made any staff redundancies.

Graham Honeybill, General Manager, RAKbank said he believes staff motivation and training are the most important factors and inherently lead to good customer service and satisfaction.

“One of the key drivers of service quality is your people. If you have faith in your staff and you reward them they produce,” Honeybill told Arabian Business

The bank also has a team of 35 staff working on customer service and Honeybill said they plan to hire an additional five staff next year.

However, the AB poll results shows that despite these improvements banks in general still have some way to go before they meet expectations in customer care.

One interesting point to emerge was that Islamic banks performed better than their non-Islamic rivals.

The overall customer satisfaction score for Islamic Banks increased from 69.8 percent in 2008 to 81.5 percent in 2009, an 11.7 percent increase. By comparison, non-Islamic banks increased from 68.6 percent in ‘08 to 77.7 percent in ’09, representing an increase of 9.1 percent. Therefore Islamic Banks outperformed non-Islamic banks by 3.8 percent overall.

Robert Keay, Ethos managing director, predicted next year will see an increase in the number of bank mergers.

According to the AB poll, 30.3 percent of people agreed with Keay saying there were not enough people to support all the banks, so mergers were likely.

Just 3.8 percent of respondents said the sector needed to have smaller banks, especially post financial crisis.

While 12 percent of respondents said banks from certain countries like India, which have a large expatriate population living in the UAE, are currently under represented.

In September Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) granted the State Bank of India a full banking licence to operate in the emirates.

Indian expats make up about 33 percent of the UAE population, yet until two months ago only the Bank of Baroda had a licence. Baroda’s branches have since been closed.

According to the Central Bank's latest monthly report, there were 46 new bank branches set up in the UAE in the first ten months of the year and the total number of branches rose from 611 in 2008 to 657.

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Dan Dimmock 10 years ago

As the poll reveals, the results are pretty consistent across the board - regardless of brand. Brand managers: I think it is worth noting, international banks choosing to operate in the UAE market, are a world away from the Global promise their parent brand has made. This makes the issue more about having management and the structures - training, IT, operations et cetera - in place to support that promise. Banks in the UAE really need to recognise that with staff motivation and empowerment (regardless of operational and infrastructural restrictions) a customer's expectation can be set and matched. Particularly in the UAE, it is arguably more about perception, than ability. From a bank's perspective: Not returning a customer's phone call, because you haven't been able to obtain an update from your credit card department; or, sending out 1,000s of leaflets to customers with stylish imagery of brand interiors featuring iMacs computers - when the internet banking system you promote can't be accessed on an iMac; are but two examples that are no longer acceptable in today's emotionally damaged, conversation-led global marketplace. DD

bee 10 years ago

I have received a lot of calls from banks who had harrassed me because I was delayed with my payments.. one bank even called my parents to tell them I am going to jail which was not true! my mother had heart ailments, she had a stroke before.. and when I spoke to the bank lady she even told me that she will make it personal that I will go to jail! can you imagine? - how are their managers allowing these stuff? - I swear I will never deal with these banks anymore!

ekim selra 10 years ago

Lets not forget - they need to improve on transperancy as well. NBD for example sent me an interest advice on my loan for one rate, but have applied a much higher rate and they think they are right in doing so!

worried 10 years ago

These calls are the most demeaning and degrading calls one can ever receive. Are they taught to be as obnoxious as possible with no limit as to how low they can go. Even threats such as " ill show you" are used frequently.

Mounir 10 years ago

If you want the best way to avoid these harassing calls, follow these steps (this applies to Nokia phones): 1) download the (free) Advanced Call Manager program 2) save all of the numbers that the bank calls you from 3) put these numbers in the block list 4) whenever the bank calls, they will get a busy tone. done :)

Hardly 10 years ago

I recently had the same problem, having missed two credit card payments consecutively. Month one was due to having to pay a silly deposit and even more ridiculous agent commision, month two, was for the first rent cheque. Nothing major, not over my limit, so just add to the cost, and ill pay again. But no, i was threatened, with court, police cases etc etc. It wasnt until i looked further and found it was not the 'legal department' as disclosed but a two bit debt collection agency, that had 'bought' the case from the bank. I called the bank, more than amiable, made the payment directly to them, and next time i recieved that type of call, I took the guys name, building number (said id go meet them) and filled a police report for falsifying information, harrasement. havent heard back since.

Chris 10 years ago

As a customer of two international and one local bank in the UAE, I am greatful that the abysmally bad customer service situation is finally made public in the media. Anyone who ever opened an account, applied for internet banking or a credit card, had any changes in address etc. in the UAE has gone through a lot of pain. I wish the banks in the UAE (especially the international ones would follow international benchmarks, or local ones in the case of RAK Bank). What needs to be done is: -more motivated and well trained staff (counting to 100 is not the only qualification to work in a bank) -easier processes (e.g. changing a phone number can not mean to go to branch and fill in 2 forms) -documented processes -less transactions that need to be done in a branch (even living in my home country Germany, I have not been to the branch in 5 years!) -shorter reaction times to customer requests -more online tools (rightfully implemented) -more transparent information about products Let's hope things will finally get better.... inshallah...