UAE banking: Time to reinvent customer service

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dubai bank counter
A local bank counter dealing with customers during routine business hours.

A recent online poll conducted by, the financial products comparison website based in the UAE, concluded that just 15 per cent of respondents would recommend their bank.

When asked ‘Would you recommend your bank to a friend or a family?’,?an overwhelming 60 per cent said they would not consider promoting their bank, while 25% were neutral. A total of 2,000 people responded to the online poll.

Meanwhile, banking experts expressed surprise at the results and reckoned active recommendation by bank customers is one of the key drivers of growth for a bank.

“There is one way banks can start improving those numbers: by giving better customer service. There is a real gap in the UAE market. However, it requires banks to invest in technology and talent to be able to provide a quick and efficient service to their customers,” Waleed Isaac, Director at, said in response to the survey.

“Majority of Expats come to the UAE with high service expectations as they are used to in their home country. This expectation even becomes higher when they bank with the same bank both in the UAE and back home. However, banks in the UAE acknowledge this issue and work very hard to continuously improve their capabilities, technology and service levels to meet customers’ expectations,” he explained.


Arabian Gazette contacted a few people to find out more about their banking experience. Marvin, an accountant at a Dubai clinic, complained most customer service representatives are totally unaware of the services their employer is offering and that leads to an extremely inconvenient situation. “I opened up a bank account with a local Dubai bank and was told that I’ll be able to do online banking. When I attempted to access my online banking account, the system informed me that the service is not available for my account type. I could not believe I was misinformed,” he explained.

“It got only worse when I called the customer service helpline and they said they can’t do it over the phone and that I need to go to the branch to get it activated,” the 27-year-old added while admitting he had to put down the phone due to their arrogant behaviour.

“They just don’t know what they’re saying and sometimes there is no end to it”.

Abdul Wahid, a 23-year-old hospital carer, is another frustrated customer who has never found respite from the banks in UAE. He insisted that it is a common place that banks levy charges without taking their customers into confidence and do not waive until their clients persist and threaten to withdraw their money.

“My bank charged me postal fees for sending bank statement to my home address despite my insistence on sending via email,” the young Sharjah-based carer told Arabian Gazette. He added that only after an exchange of a few heated arguments, both over the phone and in person, the bank staff agreed to let go of the charges but still did not apologise over the inconvenience.

“The worse bit was that the manager also refused to intervene. His indifferent attitude was shocking and made me wonder how he got the job in the first place,” a bewildered Abdul Wahid explained.


According to findings carried out by Ethos Consultancy in its 7th Annual Bank Benchmarking Index for service excellence, ?many of the UAE’s banks are still not focusing enough attention on customer services.

The research, conducted during a 3 month window (June – August 2011) during which time Ethos researchers made 460 branch visits, 276 call centre calls and 184 website interactions. The consultancy based its report on 920 research interactions, with each bank receiving 20 branch visits, 12 call centre calls and 8 website interactions. The study covered a total of 23 UAE retail banks, comprising 18 local and 5 International banks and focused on three geographical areas of operation, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.

The results suggested that less than half of respondents were satisfied with the personal, online and call centre banking services with 41 per cent extremely dissatisfied with banks’ website services.

The study comes at a time when banks around the world are facing an unprecedented credibility crisis with sapping customer confidence due to the global financial crisis and the role of bankers behind it.
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