UAE retail banks fail to meet online customer service expectations

27 June 2022 3 min. read

Retail banks across the United Arab Emirates continue to struggle with curbing customer complaints on online channels, according to the latest Banking Sentiment Index conducted by KPMG in partnership with DataEQ.

For their report, the researchers analysed over 150,000 tweets mentioning banks in 2021, categorising the tweets across different sentiments. Mentions featuring seven banks were included in the analysis: Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Commercial Bank of Dubai, Dubai Islamic Bank, Emirates NBD, First Abu Dhabi Bank, and Mashreq Bank.

For leaders in customer facing banking departments, the results were not very encouraging. Across all tweets, every single back received more negative than positive feedback. The (only) bright spot: the performance is not as bad as the year previous.

Topics driving conversation on social

The majority of tweets were about poor customer service and service disruption, followed by reputation – although this is one area where banks have to an extent also managed to shine in a positive manner. When it comes to other areas of banking support such as account administration, pricing or overall digital experience, over 9 out of 10 tweets were negative.

One area of frustration is the large number of questions which go unanswered. According to the KPMG and DataEQ study, a third of all online conversations about banks required a response (‘priority conversations’), but ‘only’ 69% of these tweets were actually answered. When people did get a reply, it took banks an average of 10 hours to respond.

Not surprisingly then, slow turnaround time and delayed responses are the most common points of criticism towards the banks, followed by no response at all, which in turn led a significant share of consumers criticise the competency and conduct of customer service groups.

Volume and Net Sentiment towards product across the industry

From a products perspective, debit cards, credit cards, and loan solutions had the highest negative net sentiment. In addition to complaints about fees related to these products, some consumers were frustrated by slow delivery of issued cards and delayed activations. There were also frequent complaints of the debit cards not working without a previous warning.

“This year’s edition of the Index shows that UAE retail banks must do more to address customer feedback and grievances to boost overall satisfaction levels,” said Abbas Basrai, Partner and Head of Financial Services at KPMG Lower Gulf. “Banks must evaluate their responsiveness to conversations on social media and make it part of their wider customer care strategy – rather than relying on it as a marketing tool.”

Not all banks fared equally bad, however. Despite receiving the largest number of conversations, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank topped the ranking in terms of net sentiment. The bank also was the quickest in responding to conversations.

Respons rate to priority

Goncalo Traquina, Partner and Head of Management Consulting at KPMG Lower Gulf, said that leaders differentiate themselves from laggards across two regards. “The most successful banks are the ones that are customer ‘obsessed and have a digital transformation mindset in connecting the front, middle and back offices. They focus every process, function, and relationship of the organisation on meeting customer expectations.”

Basrai added, “Banks must also rely on a data-driven approach which will result in better accuracy, optimised operations, improved compliance and an enhanced customer experience.”

For Nic Ray, the wave of customer complaints should be seen by retail banks as an opportunity to learn, and improve. “With customer’s increasingly preferring to use digital channels for engagement with their bank, there is an opportunity to mine this valuable unstructured feedback for real-time insight, and to improve customer service on these channels.”