UAE banks need to step up their customer service game

20 August 2021 4 min. read

Banks in the UAE have struggled to manage the sudden and widespread shift to online customer service over the last year. This is according to a new study by KPMG and BrandsEye.

BrandsEye is a London-based specialist in social data and market insights. Teaming up with Big Four accounting and advisory firm KPMG, the two firms analysed over 40,000 tweets that mentioned 11 of the UAE’s top incumbent and digital banks – for an overview of public sentiment towards the banking sector.

The backdrop is a growing realisation that customer experience is worth its weight in gold amid a highly digitalised, homogenised and competitive banking landscape worldwide. Giving customers that bit extra wins out – even more so since the pandemic last year. 

Customer service the biggest pain point for UAE banking customers

KPMG Lower Gulf partner Goncalo Traquina explained: “Covid-19 has spurred an increased uptake in digital offerings around the globe. When it comes to customer support, many consumers have turned to digital channels, such as social media, to contact their banks for assistance.” 

Consumers in the UAE are already tech savvy when it comes to financial services, and had little trouble making the shift to online. For banks – who up until last year viewed digitalised customer service as a work in progress – the shift has brought unprecedented pressure to squeeze years of transformation into weeks, or less. 

“As they (consumers) increasingly expect the same standard of service across all channels and providers, banks have had to rapidly innovate their customer service approach to better suit social media platforms,” added Traquina.

UAE customers dissatisfied with response time on social media

Expectations changed at lightning speed, and the new KPMG-BrandsEye study reveals that banks in the UAE have struggled to keep up. Across thousands of tweets that mentioned top banks, customer service made up more than 57% of the conversation – over 92% of which was negative. So what had customers so riled up? 

Per the study, it’s the speed of response. On average, UAE banks took 13 hours to respond to a priority customer service request on social media – a turnaround time that is too slow according to nearly 45% of consumers. Another 22% revealed that they never got a response at all, posing some serious questions for banks. 

Response rates and times vary by request type – risk, purchase, cancellations or service – although performance was less than satisfactory across all categories. According to the researchers, banks simply aren’t equipped to filter social media activity. 

UAE Banks take an average of 13 hours to respond to social media requests

“One in every two online mentions in the UAE banking industry posed a risk or consisted of a service request, an acquisition opportunity or a cancellation threat. Any of these should be considered as requiring a response from the bank,” explained Abbas Basrai, partner and head of financial services at KPMG Lower Gulf. 

“This, however, means that almost half of all online conversation about the banks was noise for social customer service teams, hindering their ability to prioritise the mentions which did warrant a reply.”

Building a streamlined system that enables quicker response times is the clear objective for UAE banks going forward – as they look to adapt to a whole new business paradigm. According to Traquina, new regulations that protect banking consumers will make this task even trickier for financial services institutions. 

“To ensure regulatory compliance, the industry needs to elevate the importance of social media as a channel for customer service, on par with other channels such as call centers,” he concluded.