Customer service attaches to or moves people from their bank, yet it is undervalued by more than half of UAE’s banks.
Imagine you have an urgent banking inquiry. Your bank is promoting excellent customer care, so your solution should only be seven digits away.
And it’s toll free.
After hearing all the options on the menu, selecting the most suitable one and waiting for the operator to turn his or her attention to you the inquiry is dealt with just as quick as you expected; but you aren’t any closer to a solution.
This scenario is a very likely one when you are aiming for specific information from your bank.
According to the findings of the Ethos Consultancy 7th Annual Bank Benchmarking Index less than 50 per cent of UAE banks have customer service as a core focus.
"This is most exemplified by the results of the Call Centre measurement, which (in 2011) indicated that many of the country’s leading banks still do not respond to customers within two working days of their enquiry, or even record incoming callers’ details," the report states.
The research of Ethos Consultancy in 2011 indicated that in respect of the call centre service respondents had received, 28 per cent were extremely satisfied, 48 per cent were satisfied, and 15 per cent were neither satisfied not dissatisfied. However, 8 per cent were dissatisfied and 1 per cent extremely dissatisfied.
"Promising the customer will be called back within 48 hours is in itself an indication that the information required cannot be provided at that moment by the person on the phone. Very often, the inquiry then gets forgotten and the customer remains without an answer," says Robert Keay, managing director of Ethos Consultancy.
The importance of call centre customer service cannot any longer be denied. "With people working during most of the office hours of a bank’s branch doing the inquiry over the phone is the preferred solution for many UAE-residents," says Robbert.
Earlier this newspaper reported findings of DigitalMR Ltd., a digital marketing research company indicating that customer care is placed as a top concern by customers when rating their bank, bypassing fees and offers as criteria.
Indeed, when asked if people are happy with their bank, response in most cases explains their level of satisfaction with the service their bank provides. Non preferable banks are often described as being rude on the phone, inaccessible and unprofessional whereas good banks get a good turnout on these matters.
Ethos Consultancy in its research focused on the aspects of service that have most impact as determined from their customer expectations research, which turned out to be the processes and people aspect of service performance.
"It makes a very big difference when a bank employee smiles and greets you in a warm manner," says Robbert. In the rating Ethos Consultancy took into account the five key variables of service provision; known to be reliability, responsiveness, assurance, empathy and a well-equipped service environment.
"Customer service has improved a lot in the past five years," says Robbert. Many companies are starting to realise that a well-managed customer service provision enlarges the customer base, and this is what makes it interesting for them."
"Over the last three years, since we embarked on our new vision, we have expanded our branch network to 69, quadrupled the number of ATM’s and revamped our call center to world class standards. We have introduced new ways to make banking simple and easy for our clients such as new mobile and online services, unveiled a new branch concept, improved processes and invested heavily in training our staff," says Wasim Ben Khadra, manager corporate communications of ADIB.
According to Robbert, the good intention is there. "Managers have acknowledged the fact that it should be a strategy included in their policy. Recruitment is the first step and most banks have a good eye on how to select the right person for the job."
However, the problem lies in consistency. "Very often the bank starts off well, but then gradually loses focus. The strategy is there, but it is not implemented consistently."
This lack of consistency does not only stem from the management, but also from the person providing the customer service, explains Robbert.
"You have to imagine that the number of calls these call centre operators are dealing with is very high, and every time they have to deal with another person, with another problem. Most people only manage to do this job for a period of 6 months, no longer."
However, proper management is the key, says Robbert. "Employees need to have an incentive, and the financial incentive pays off the most. Other options would be career opportunities and company training."
"The employees start their work with a daily huddle and an internal Newsletter which features case studies that reiterate the indispensable values (of customer service)," explains Karim Seifeddine, Corporate Communications Head of Citibank when asked how customer service is valued at this bank, that did not make it to the top ten in call center ranking this year.
"Citibank is strongly committed to enhancing customer satisfaction every day through a number of regular trainings customised to all levels of responsibility from new graduates to mid-hires and senior management.
"For all our Customer Service employees, we have an extensive Customer Service Certification to equip and edify them with the service mindset, right skills, and attitude. In addition we have an integrated Employee engagement and Rewards and Recognition programme to acknowledge exemplary customer experience," he adds.
Progress is by far evident among all 23 banks and a number of banks at the bottom line is unlikely to improve.
"My over-riding concern is that the Index has improved because of the performance of less than 50% of the banks, whilst a number of the country’s leading banks are not providing the level of service as those of their competitors and this will ultimately impact on their bottom line. This is most exemplified by the results of the Call Centre measurement," says Robbert Keay.
"This shortfall in the quality of service needs to be addressed especially as telephone banking is one of the most preferred channels for customers when dealing with their bank."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
Published: Friday, March 2, 2012
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