Monthly Archives: November 2009

5th Annual Service Quality Bank Benchmarking Study shows a dramatic increase in customer satisfaction levels while RAKBank wins ‘Best Overall Bank’

Dubai, November 15, 2009. Ethos Consultancy has released the findings of its 5th Annual Service Quality Bank Benchmarking Study. This year shows a remarkable increase on last year’s study with the average customer satisfaction score increasing by almost 10%, the largest increase since the study commenced in 2005. RAKBank have retained the title as ‘Best Overall Bank’, narrowly edging out Dubai Bank who finished second overall and First Gulf Bank, who finished in third place.

Customer satisfaction with the UAE’s retail banking sector has improved significantly due to the Government’s commitment to improve service quality and a global recession forcing banks to make customer service a priority. Concentrating on three key contact methods – branch visits, telephone enquiries and website enquires – Ethos Consultancy can reveal that the global recession has had an overwhelming impact on customer service within the retail banking sector. Robert Keay, Managing Director of Ethos Consultancy stated, ‘Banks invested significantly in increasing the level of customer satisfaction this year, the recession means that banks’ focus has shifted from customer acquisition to customer retention’, Keay continued by adding, ‘fewer people means fewer customers, and as a result, customer service has become imperative and seems to be finally taking center stage.’

The Bank Benchmarking Study is carried out by trained and experienced researchers who focus on real scenarios whereby a prospective customer approaches a retail bank via three channels: branch, call center or website. These channels are evaluated on key differentiators that define customer experience at a bank and include interpersonal performance, response time, service quality and satisfactory outcome. During the study Ethos researchers conducted 1,350 mystery shopping visits – 675 branch visits, made 405 call center enquiries and submitted 270 enquiries through bank websites. The study included a total of 27 UAE retail banks.

The Study has identified that the biggest improvements have occurred in the performance of the call center and branch visits, overall scores increased on 2008 by 10.4% and 10% respectively. Banks’ websites are still underperforming with a meager 0.3% increase on the 2008 score. Although most banks scored highly on website access, navigation, information and visual appeal, only 30.2% of enquiries submitted via websites received a follow up call or email from a bank. This ‘response to enquiries’ metric has dropped 4.5% on the 2008 study showing that UAE retails banks have a long way to go in terms of addressing customer service through their online channels. For the second year running, Best Website Performance was won by First Gulf Bank.

Overall performance of bank branches has increased from 70.1% in 2008 to 80.1% in 2009. The biggest area of growth in branches was the performance of the customer service advisor when interacting with customers, jumping up 12.7%. Customer service advisors are more knowledgeable and better equipped to handle enquiries than ever before. Keay stated ‘integral to customer service are your people, it’s crucial that you hire the right people and give them the right knowledge, training and interpersonal skills in order to deal effectively and efficiently with customers’, he continued, ‘the recession has helped banks focus on training and knowledge, and this focus is reflected in the results of the study’. Best Branch Visit Performance was won by RAKBank. To achieve the same level of customer service provided at RAKBANK branches, other banks have a long way to go. RAKBank are clearly leading the way in this regard, and their consistency over the past 4 years is a strong and resilient show of commitment towards their pursuit of excellence in service quality.

‘Service excellence is a central part of RAKBank’ culture, and we consistently put greater efforts into raising service standards, developing employee skills and streamlining processes to deliver the best service possible,” said Graham Honeybill, General Manager of RAKBank.  “It is very gratifying when this effort is acknowledged by our customers, and equally rewarding to be recognized in independent market studies as the best bank for service for the fourth consecutive year.’

Call center’s overall performance went from 64.5% in 2008 to 74.9% in 2009. The best performing area in the call center performance was the ‘Call Answering’ category. The increase of 16.9% on 2008 is a result of banks being better equipped to deal with the length of time customers wait on the phone, agent greeting and the agent understanding and delivering on the exact requirements. Robert Keay believes ‘staff turnover in call centers is high around the world. It tends to be a boring job with limited promotional opportunities, but it’s an integral part of the customer experience and banks need to find ways to overcome these challenges’. Best Call Center Performance was won by First Gulf Bank.

Best International Bank for the 4th consecutive year is Lloyds TSB, who has consistently maintained high levels of customer service throughout the years. While Best Shari’a Compliant Bank was Dubai Bank.

The Most Improved Bank was awarded to Dubai Bank. Dubai Bank finished in 2nd place overall, which was a substantial improvement from 2008 where Dubai Bank finished in lowly 21st place. This jump to 2nd place is a reflection of Dubai Bank’s commitment to developing a customer focused strategy that permeates throughout the organisation. Keay stated ‘customer service isn’t something you do for two weeks every year; it needs to be ingrained in the very fiber of an orgaisation’s culture’.

Philip Forrest, the President of The International Customer Service Institute and Chairman of the UK National Business Awards, has verified the Bank Benchmarking Study and emphasises the benefits of focusing on service quality, ‘Service quality is a serious business and organisations that take it seriously will not only have to spend less to replace customers they have lost but they will also be free to select the customers that meet their business plans rather than those they need to make up the numbers. The double benefit is that those who pay attention to customer care will find it easier to develop a more profitable and increasingly loyal customer base thereby creating the opportunity to sell more products. Customers are becoming more selective with whom they bank with and this year’s winner RAKBank has once again led the chasing pack in delivering best practice four years in a row.’

Ethos concludes fieldwork for 5th Annual Service Quality Bank Benchmarking Study

Ethos Consultancy has concluded the fieldwork for its 5thService Quality Bank Benchmarking Study. BBS 2009 will benchmark 27 of the UAE’s largest and most competitive Retail Banks on their levels on service quality. Ethos’ trained researchers have conducting a total of 1350 banking enquiries – 675 bank branch visits, 405 telephone enquiries and 270 website enquiries.

Concentrating on all three key customer contact methods, this study will reveal which banks across the UAE are exceeding customer expectations and breaking through the status quo in terms of delivering superior levels of customer service.

The UAE banking industry is fast-moving and highly competitive, customers are savvy and the market place can be an unforgiving environment. Banks’ customer service must perform at the highest levels so as to create sustainable value for their customers. A great customer experience can dramatically improve customer loyalty as well as serve as a draw for new customers, making a customer service orientated culture a very powerful tool. BBS 2009 will reveal how UAE retail banks are using service quality as a building block for accelerating growth and sustaining long-term success.

The purpose of this annual benchmarking study is to provide the UAE banking industry with service quality market intelligence. “Benchmarking is the practice of being humble enough to admit that someone else is better at something; and being wise enough to learn how to match or even surpass them at it”, said Robert Keay, Managing Director, Ethos Consultancy. Keay goes on to say, “Our annual Bank Benchmarking Study offers independent, unbiased results which if used to their maximum potential can change the way a bank does business.”

Every year, five service quality category winners are identified based on performance. Best Overall Bank, Best International Bank, Best Islamic Bank, Best Website Response Performance and Best Call Centre Performance. Ethos recently spoke to some of last years’ category winners to find out what maintenance and improvement strategies have been implemented since last year’s Bank Benchmarking Study results were released to the public early November, 2008.

All of last year’s winners have been busy setting service quality objectives, measuring their customer’s satisfaction and most importantly, acting on their customer’s responses and improvement suggestions.

Emirates Islamic Bank, winners of 2008 Best Islamic Bank, Service Quality Manager, Wael Rateb commented “I always tell my staff that service will bring sales, not sales will bring service. We have placed considerable effort and resource towards understanding exactly what our customers require to be completely satisfied. During the last 12 months Emirates Islamic Bank has opened new branches, increased the number of ATM‟s across the UAE and completely revamped our internal call center team with extensive training and new customer friendly processes”. Wael calls his bank’s service approach “Wow service” and is extremely confident that Emirates Islamic Bank will move up this year’s ranking from third place overall to claim top position as Best Overall Bank.

This won’t be an easy task considering RAKBANK has held its position as Best Overall Bank for the last three years. With such a fantastic record, the bank is keen is to raise the bar of service every year and has spared no effort in ensuring that it consistently exceeds customer expectations through superior service. RAKBANK’s General Manager, Graham Honeybill explains that “Service has always been and continues to be the core of RAKBANK culture. We believe that our constant emphasis on service and the amount of time, effort and resources that go into enhancing it is exceptional within the UAE banking industry.” “Greater efforts have been made this year to listen to the voice of the customer through our extensive customer satisfaction surveys,” he continues. “All feedback received from customers has been analyzed and, where feasible, implemented.” Since last year’s study, RAKBANK has added Internet banking to its list of services, hence creating an opportunity to win Best Website Performance in this year’s BBS, a title taken last year by First Gulf Bank. Graham also pointed out that training efforts have been intensified this year to further enhance skills, while the bank’s staff continues to be motivated through a ‘Reward and Recognition’ Program that recognizes and applauds those who excel in service delivery.

Richard Hextall, Head of Personal Banking for Lloyds TSB Middle East, winners of Best International Bank in 2008, explained they too have been extremely active in their customer service initiatives during 2009. “Not only do we take the results of Ethos’ annual Bank Benchmarking Study very seriously, we also conduct our own customer service satisfaction surveys with our customers twice a year. Following our most recent extensive customer survey we have made some exciting branch improvements including a re-organisation of our main banking hall in Jumeirah. Improvements involved the extension of our cashier area from 4 to 6 counters, as well as the introduction of an improved ticketed queuing system within the customer service and account manager teams. This has assisted us with a more efficient flow of customers as well as ensuring customers see the most appropriate person for assistance.”

Mr. Faisal Aqil General Manager, Retail Banking, Emirates Islamic Bank stated, “Ensuring service excellence is an integral part of our vision, therefore we ensure that the customer is at the center of all that we do. As a testimony of this commitment, Emirates Islamic Bank continues to lead the way in financial services by introducing innovative products and services. Furthermore, we also continue to rapidly increase our reach to the customers by spreading our distribution network so that our customers continue to be delighted with us in every critical aspect and thus enjoy their banking experience. And to maintain our top of the notch customer centric approach and service leadership, we have developed extensive customer service training programs for our staff at all our customer interaction touch points. Ethos service quality benchmarking study will continue to be a leading indicator for us besides our internal measures for service quality.”

When asked what customer service challenges were faced during 2009, as expected each bank tackled their own unique issues such as attempting to increase the satisfaction of customers opening new accounts and making sure each customer service representative delivers a consistent greeting and closing. However, it was especially pleasing to hear the economic crisis has in some instances played a positive role towards helping these banks along their journey to customer service excellence. “We’ve used this period as an opportunity to assess our current processes and train our staff”, said Wael Rateb, Head of Service Quality, Emirates Islamic Bank.

The need to increase communication and reassure customers during a recession was clearly noted from discussions with last year’s winners. “During an economic crisis, customers need more reassurance and frequent communication from their banks. That is why we ensured that we have actively maintained direct communication with our customers since the onset of the crisis and maintained our high visibility in the market.” Graham Honeybill, General Manager, RAKBANK.

Ethos Consultancy plans to release a free summary of this year’s Bank Benchmarking Results to the public via their website in early November. Full reports will be available on request.

Ethos Consultancy honoured with MEBA Award

MEBA AwardEthos Consultancy was awarded Recommended Employer of the Year which was announced during the Middle East Business Achievement (MEBA) Awards at this year’s Leaders in Dubai Business Forum.

The MEBA Award was presented by Chester Elton; author of ‘The Carrot Principle’ to Robert Keay, Managing Director of Ethos Consultancy, immediately after Elton presented to 1,000 delegates on how recognition boosts staff engagement. Robert Keay stated that he was ‘humbled and delighted with the award’. He continued by adding, ‘l’ve worked hard on recognising the efforts of my team. Rewarding performance undoubtedly contributes to staff engagement and when you achieve employee engagement you also get their passion and creativity, all of which drives organisations onward and upward’.

Ethos Consultancy, who employs 52 staff in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, beat off stiff competition from Vodafone Egypt, The One and Dow Chemical IMEA. Keay added, ‘it has been such a big year for us; we’ve doubled the number of full-time staff, opened an office in Abu Dhabi, expanded our services into Qatar and Oman, and smashed our financial targets, all of which has happened during one of the most tumultuous periods of time since the great depression’.

Continuing from the success of last year, where Ethos Consultancy was awarded Lloyds most Innovative and Unique Small Business for 2008, Keay stated that ‘some of the greatest opportunities present themselves when times seem the toughest; a good reward and recognition plan not only reinforces positive behavior but encourages staff to become opportunists and problem solvers’.

Some areas that Ethos focuses on and which contributed to achieving success at this year’s MEBA Awards include:

  • Alignment of staff to a strong and meaningful culture
  • Internal communication, motivation, loyalty strategies and levels of autonomy
  • Effective and creative change management
  • Uniqueness of staff development strategies, policies and support systems
  • Good working relationships between all levels within the organisation
  • Strategy to attract and retain top talent
  • Reward and recognition programs that build and reinforce employee engagement
  • Appreciating cultural diversity and using culture as a success driver

Pictured Above:

(Back left-to-right) Susan Smith – HR Director Ethos Consultancy, Robert Keay – Managing Director Ethos Consultancy, Chester Elton – Recognition Consultant and author of The Carrot Principle, Steve Farber – President of Extreme Leadership Incorporated and author to three award winning books, Jack Perowski – one  of the most successful entrepreneurs in China.

(Front left-to-right) Benjamin Zander – Conductor Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and author of The Art of Possibility and human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu.