Rabail Abbas (February 27, 2013)
Customer service plays a vital role in today’s highly competitive market. Between the ever increasing demand and heightened customer expectations, an organization must be able to identify market trends, buyer behaviors and key performance indicators in order to remain competitive and fulfill customers’ expectations at the highest level. An emphasis on customer service is therefore a key contributing factor to a company’s success and competitiveness.
The customer service sector in UAE poses a unique challenge. Given the region’s population density, prevalent culture and multi-ethnic population, businesses really have their hands full. With a deeply segmented populous and growing tourism we have ourselves a unique set of characteristics, including but not limited to varying market trends and buying preferences. However, while such variance may exist indefinitely, there is also that one universal constant to customer service, Quality.
Customer service essence refers to the dedication and commitment of an employee to deliver the highest quality of service and support to the client. Organizations must strive to build strong customer relations and induce customer loyalty; the idea is to develop customers into promoters. A promoter or an evangelist is defined as a customer who relates to your product/service, has fair repurchasing ratio and advertises your brand or service through his word of mouth, bringing in more customers. The customer service essence lies with delivering customer centric service. With the right motivational tool, organizations can create an enthusiastic and dedicated service task force.
Mr. Keay of YouGov Study Group for ‘The National’, U.A.E. explained, “While better than elsewhere in the region, customer service in the UAE lagged behind Europe and North America. People coming in from the West, they are traumatized by it”.
In Arab Emirates with the exception of the telecommunication and tourism companies, the general state of the service sector is average at best. Dubai Bank’s Lutfi Al Shukaili, the head of service quality and performance development says, “Catering to different nationalities is the key to good customer service. Companies that fail to adjust their services are going to struggle”.
In UAE, cultural differences can often work to the detriment of service quality. A general lack of cultural awareness can alienate the customer, while the service representatives themselves may find it difficult to gauge customer requirements and service expectations. Managing a multi-ethnic customer base also incites communication issues, while the language barrier is not that significant, a lot can be lost in translation. Given that 90% of U.A.E. population is foreign, there is a need for routine trainings and employee education.
A recent study held in U.A.E., reveals that almost 50% of the companies interviewed found customer satisfaction strategies to be important when focusing on customer service. Staff inspiration is also taken into consideration by over a fifth of the companies.
However, there is an overall lack of focus on after-sales or post-service care, as most companies give little importance to proper follow ups, whether it’s a feedback or resolving a complaint promptly. This is perpetuated further by a general lack of interest for repeat business and customer loyalty.
Organizations must strive to develop a more customer-oriented culture. This can be achieved by paying more attention to customer needs, responding to complaints and collecting valuable feedback. It is important that service standards are constantly monitored as it is not enough to just have guidelines and rules; they must also be acted upon and revised accordingly.
Across all the countries, voice is still considered to be a major communication channel, but in recent years, self-service channels like live chat is gaining momentum. There is a 12% growth in web self-service usage, a 24% increase in chat usage for customer services in last 3 years according to study by Forrester Research.
1- SaaS Solutions for Customer Service – Smart Choice Getting Popularity
Customer service systems and technologies play a pivotal role in determining service quality. No matter if it’s a call center or a self-service web application, customer service systems are very important in establishing customer contact and ensuring that their needs are met in a satisfactory manner.
Software as a Service has become increasingly popular over the last few year. With more than 70% of companies reporting on adoption or the plan to do so in the near future, service is likely to become more expedient.
2- Outsourcing – Slowly Gaining Market Share
Outsourcing is gaining some pace slowly, according to Forrester nearly 20% of companies outsourced customer service, whereas nearly 8% are aggressively planning to do so in the near future.
Customer service quality can be perceived differently, by different people. While UAE is not the worst place in terms of service quality, there is a noticeable difference in service standards (in comparison to Western/European regions).
According to Robert Keay, the Managing Director of Ethos Consultancy, “Some people are here a year, or two years, or three years, and then they go and a new group of people come in with different expectations”.
“The guy in RAK will only want to see one person – and that’s the branch manager”. According to YouGov that while staff is polite, they lack knowledge and detailed information about the product and/or service. However, proper training by customer service professionals within the company can help yield positive results.
“The talent available is limited and that’s a big challenge for the banks.” says DS Ravikumar, the vice president and head of service quality at Emirates NBD bank,
Head of service quality at Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank pointed out that, “One of the biggest concerns is that the staff has the necessary product knowledge and can communicate the information that the customer is looking for.”
Social media has gone really big in the ME region, while most companies use it to promote their products, social media can be used to interact and engage the consumer. You can learn what your customers are talking about? How they rate your products and services? Companies should look to enhance customer experience by interacting online, replying in a timely manner and giving weight to their suggestion and feedback. Social media is all about transparency, hence businesses should look to take advantage of positive comments and publically acknowledge disrupted services or a product feature that does not exist, try resolving complaints promptly.
YouTube could be effectively used to help your customers learn about your products and answer frequently asked questions about your product or service, i.e. demonstrations, training videos, de-bugging, etc. However, despite the development in the area major social sites such as Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram are yet still to be integrated into CRM. After all, most people utilize Facebook to connect with friends and family, rather than finding businesses. From a business-to-business perspective, LinkedIn has been more effective in connecting with customers and/or creating business contacts.
Cynthia Boris, a social media proponent and write explains, “Handing customer service via a public medium is like walking through a muddy mine field. At the very least, you’re going to get dirty. Take one wrong step and game is over.” For example grocery chain Wegmans went so far as to close their Facebook Page. Their response was, “Monitoring the page was too much time consuming and complaints often went unanswered for an unacceptable period of time.”
Keeping Arab Emirates in perspective, a lot of improvement is required to enhance the existing service standards. Due to cross-cultures and multi ethnicity, customer service representative must be trained to deal with complex situations. A CSR is expected to communicate properly, be courteous to the customer and sympathetic to their cause. “What we are talking about is diversity management training, multi-lingual skills, adherence to culture values and last but not the least respect for your customer”, explained a management consultant at the UAE Customer Service Week, October 2012.
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