Customer service remains a key challenge  for banks in the UAE, but a lot of effort is being directed into addressing the issue, a senior banker has said.
“I’ll admit that the UAE’s banking industry is not exactly the benchmark for excellent customer service,” said Suvo Sarkar, general manager, Retail Banking and Wealth Management at Emirates NBD.
“It is probably the most complex and most difficult challenge for bankers, especially here. At Emirates NBD, we have 70 nationalities of bankers dealing with 200 nationalities of customers, so that’s 1400 combinations of staff and customers that have to work well all the time. What is good service to a Lebanese customer is not necessarily good service to an Indian or British customer,” he explained.
The key is for lenders to work on consistency of service across multiple channels.
“We are doing a lot of work in training our frontline staff to be consistent in terms of what they tell customers, how they appear to customers and how they behave with them,” he said.
Emirates NBD, Dubai’s biggest bank , is using social media as one of the major tools to interact with customers and resolve problems.
“Facebook and Twitter are two of our fastest growing channels for customers to complain and give feedback and we react within hours on those. The resolution or satisfaction we are measuring on these channels is higher than traditional channels,” said Sarkar.
“If customers are upset about a service failure and we resolve the issue well in two to three hours, they then promote us to their friends and colleagues so it works in our favour in keeping them happy,” he added.
Banks in the UAE are also increasingly facing flak from customers as the practice of cold-calling soars. With the economy rebounding and confidence returning to the market , calls from banks offering everything from credit cards to personal loans have been on the rise.
Sarkar urged lenders to abstain from unnecessarily disturbing customers.
“We are hurting ourselves as an industry by calling consumers incessantly and the idea is really to position products that customers really want based on the life stage and lifestyle needs. We are not doing ourselves justice by pitching every product to every consumer and I think this will only hurt us in the long run,” he said.
“I can understand from a consumer’s mindset that you don’t want to be disturbed in the middle of a meeting to be told about the latest credit card launched by Bank X.
“Banks have to hold themselves back in the kind of marketing they are doing and I think with more usage of CRM, banks are becoming more sensitive to which kind of customers to call. Also banks can use non-intrusive ways like emailer, SMSs etc instead of calling the customers,” he added.
Emirates NBD currently has a ‘do-not call list’ and any customer who doesn’t want to be called can ask to be included in it, said Sarkar. “All our outbound calls are filtered through that list and those on it are not called,” he said.
“Some countries even have an industry wide do not call list – that’s something the industry here can do as well. It’s a central database of names and numbers that banks will have to mandatorily check, so once you register yourself in that list, no bank will call you.”
The practice may also start to drop off  after the launch of the UAE Credit Bureau later this year, since banks will have better credit information, opined Sarkar.
Overall, the UAE’s banking industry  is diligently working on improving customer service standards.
“We are aware of the issue as bankers and we are doing a whole lot of work around it,” said Sarkar.
“And as an industry – I can vouch for the fact that we have improved significantly over the last five years,” he added.
By Aarti Nagraj