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.’