Monthly Archives: October 2010

6th Annual Bank Benchmarking Index reveals marginal improvement in customer service

6th Annual Bank Benchmarking Index reveals marginal improvement in customer service despite the recession with RAKBank narrowly retaining the ‘Best Overall Bank’ award for the 5th consecutive year.

Ethos Consultancy has revealed the findings of its 6th Annual Bank Benchmarking Index for service excellence. This year’s study indicates a marginal increase in the overall performance of customer service in the retail banking industry, despite the financial recession and the banks’ added focus on debt recovery, reducing operational overheads to improve their profit margins.

This year’s overall performance result of 81.48% (based on 2009 weightings for distribution channels) maintains the positive trend experienced over the last five years, although the effect of the banks’ preoccupation with improving productivity is reflected in the trends with only eight banks actually improving their performance accounting for the overall positive result, and 11 losing ground in performance levels. The remaining banks either maintained their position or were new entrants to the survey this year.

The Bank with the highest performance overall continues to be RAKBank, followed by Dubai Bank although this year, there was only a marginal difference in performance between the leaders, with both banks in the 90th percentile. A new entrant to the Top Ten League, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank took the third position with Lloyds TSB winning the Top International Bank.

Robert Keay, the Managing Director of Ethos commented, “Despite the economic recessions some banks have been making significant investments in improving the level of service provision. This is demonstrated by major changes in ranking in 2010 and by the small variance of 6% between the top and fifth bank. Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank for example, has moved from 18th ranking in 2009 to 3rd place overall in 2010, and National Bank of Abu Dhabi too has moved from 23rd ranking in 2009 to 8th place in 2010, both moving up a remarkable 15 positions. However my over-riding concern is that the Index has improved because of the performance of only eight banks, whilst a significant 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, which indicated that many of the country’s leading banks do not respond to customers within two working days of their enquiry, or even record incoming callers’ details. 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”.

Every year the retail banking study is carried out by trained and experienced researchers who focus on real scenarios a prospective customer would face when using either traditional channels i.e. visiting a branch or using alternative delivery channels such as the Call Centre or website. This year to determine the overall performance levels, the weighting was revised to reflect the growth in the use of alternative delivery channels based on a survey conducted in the retail banking sector. The customer experience is evaluated to determine whether the service delivery meets the five key variables of service provision (i.e. reliability, responsiveness, assurance, empathy and a well equipped service environment). Two new dimensions were added to the survey this year, complaint management and customer loyalty.

During the study the Ethos researchers conducted 483 branch visits, contacted Call Centres to make 378 enquiries, and submitted 231 enquiries via bank websites. This year’s study covered a total of 21 UAE retail banks, comprising 15 local and 6 international banks and focused on three geographical areas of operation, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.

One of the most significant findings revealed by the study was the major improvement in website performance measured by indicators such as accessibility, navigation etc, and the level of information available, in addition to response times to enquiries received via the website. This increase of 20.75% in 2010, was a considerable performance upgrading compared to the 2009 scoring of 47.7%. This trend was reflected in the individual scoring of the banks surveyed, 76% improved their performance levels with RAKbank and Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank improving their performance levels by more than 50%, and moving into 1st and 2nd place respectively. Conversely, 14% of the banks lost ground in performance and the remaining 10% either maintained their position or were a new entrant to the study. Despite the overall improved performance, customer satisfaction with website performance remains the lowest at 43% which indicates there is still considerable opportunity for improvement. This can be attributed to the poor response times, for example lack of acknowledgement of an enquiry about a product or service, and failure to contact the prospective customer. Even when contacted, the quality of service failed to meet expectations.

Continuing the focus on alternative delivery channels, in 2010 overall there was a minor 4.96% improvement in Call Centre performance, rising from 74.9% in 2009 to 79.86% in 2010, although Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank achieved an extremely high scoring of (95.4%) and moved their ranking from 10th place in 2009 to 1st place in 2010 winning the award for Best Call Centre. Overall the performance trends were mixed, with 43% of all banks surveyed improving their Call Centre performance, 9% maintaining their performance levels or were a new entrant, but almost half ( 48%) not maintaining the level of performance shown in 2009. Again a concern is raised about response times after making an enquiry about a product or service, as more than half of the callers did not get a response with 48 hours or two working days. This can be attributed directly to the quality of service as more than half of the caller’s contact details were not even taken by the Call Centre Agent. Interestingly, the Call Centre satisfaction ratings of 75% correlated to the performance level within a 5% margin of error.

The branch network, the traditional distribution channel, continues to demonstrate the highest level of performance amongst the channels surveyed, and this year there was a further improvement with the score increasing by a further 2.87%, from 80.1% in 2009 to 82.97% in 2010. RAKbank won the Best Branch Performance Award and National Bank of Abu Dhabi can be accredited with the most improved branch performance, moving from 26th ranking in 2009 to 8th place in 2010. There was a positive trend in performance levels with 48% of the banks improving the performance at their branches, 19% maintaining their performance levels whilst the remaining 33% lost ground in branch performance. Regional comparisons indicated that Dubai branches (84.0%) branches performed marginally better than Abu Dhabi (81.4%) & Sharjah (81.5%) branches. However satisfaction levels with branch performance were moderate in 2010 at 74% which does not correlate to the performance indicators and thus indicates there is further scope for improvement from the customer perspective.

For 5th consecutive year, Lloyds TSB won the Best International Bank category, a bank who has consistently maintained high levels of service provision throughout the years. Another consistent performance from Dubai Bank also earned them the Best Islamic Bank category for the second year running.

Richard Musty, Managing Director of Lloyds TSB Middle East commented on the news stating ‘The last five years have seen a huge change in market conditions and we have seen our customers experiencing both good and bad times. To have received this award every year for five years proves our ability to adapt, evolve and continually provide our customers with the best service possible. I am extremely proud and would like to congratulate all of my colleagues who have worked so hard to consistently provide such high levels of quality customer service.’

This year the Most Improved Bank category was awarded to Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank who achieved a 3rd place ranking moving from their 18th ranking last year (N.B. the award is given based on percentage increase in performance). Commercial Bank of Dubai also deserves a mention, as they improved both their ranking and performance levels in every channel.

Three banks lead the field in complaint management, they are RAKBank, Dubai Bank and First Gulf Bank respectively with strong performance in all three submission channels i.e. the branch network, and via the Call Centre or website.

The 2010 Award Winners for the Bank Benchmarking Index are:

  • Best Bank-Overall Performance: RAKBank
  • Best Bank- Branch Performance : RAKBank
  • Best Bank- Call Centre Performance : Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank
  • Best Bank- Website Performance: RAKBank
  • Best Islamic Bank : Dubai Bank
  • Best international Bank: Lloyds TSB
  • Most improved Bank: Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank
  • Most Highly Recommended Bank: RAKBank

“RAKBANK’s unwavering commitment to service excellence is reflected in the Bank’s continuous effort to enhance service standards across business units,” said Graham Honeybill, RAKBANK General Manager. “We are delighted to be recognized as the number one bank in the UAE in service excellence for the fifth consecutive year and we credit this award to the Bank’s committed staff whose efforts have been acknowledged by our valued customers and by an independent bank study on service quality.”