In today’s 21st century, UAE customers are fully aware of the unlimited purchasing choices available to them. Therefore it is important for business owners to put customers first and turn those customers into ‘repeat and return’ customers. Millions of dollars are lost every year because of the poor handling of customers by company staff.

UAE businesses are aware that:

‘If a customer has a bad experience once, they will constantly talk about it.’ 

Statistics show that it costs approximately eight times more to find a new customer, as compared to keep an existing one. Therefore, business owners must hire well trained staff to serve customers more efficiently and effectively, and to improve their bottom line.



Ethos Consultancy revealed the findings of its ‘9th Annual Bank Benchmarking Index for Service Excellence’, at the UAE Customer Service Week 2013, dated October 1, 2013. The purpose of the research study was to focus on key areas that customers “value the most” and that surround the processes and people aspect of service performance.

The benchmarking report indicated that:

‘There is a gap in customer service, in the banking sector of UAE. Many of the UAE banks are still not focusing enough attention on customer service.’

Jad Rammal, the Director of Measurement Solutions, Ethos Consultancy stated:

‘Poor customer service drives customers to change their banks. Therefore, Emirates banking sector still needs to work on their customer service performance.’

Research study shows that poor customer service is a major reason which makes UAE customer’s switch to other banks, and an overwhelming majority (60%) would not even consider recommending their bank to a friend or relative.


According to experts, poor levels of customer service cost UAE firms millions of dirhams in lost sales and business each year. Speaking on the sidelines of the 11th GCC Government Shared Services Centres and E-Services Quality Excellence Conference, dated January 29, 2013, Mr. Suhail Bin Tarraf, the Chief Executive of Tanfeeth, claimed that:

‘UAE business organizations had to rethink their approach in order to improve the quality of customer care and a cultural change is needed over how the private and public sectors deal with customers.’

He further elaborated that:

‘It is difficult to put an exact figure on how much businesses are losing out, but it would be fair to say they are missing out on millions of dirhams if people take their custom elsewhere because of poor service.’


The Nielsen Global Survey of Loyalty Sentiment (November, 2013) was conducted on 29,000 online consumers in 58 countries throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East (having 71% Internet Penetration of UAE), Africa and North America. The purpose of the study was to investigate why customers switch brands, service providers or retailers.

  • Customer Brand Loyalty/Non-Loyalty

The survey findings revealed that almost one-quarter (24%) of respondents worldwide claimed complete loyalty to their mobile phone brand/service provider, with highest majority i.e. mobile phone brand (35%)/service provider (28%) belonging to Middle East and Africa.

Customer Brand Loyalty_Non-Loyalty

Conversely, the lowest levels of loyalty on a global scale (respondents who were not loyal and likely to switch) were found within the food and beverage categories, with 32% consumers belonging to Middle East and Africa.

The survey study also highlighted the key attributes, encouraging consumers to switch brands, service providers and retailers.

Survey Study

Out of diversified brand switching reasons in Middle East, on average 36% consumers change their brands to get a better product on a slightly better price. 33% are likely to switch due to their preference to have ‘quality product’. While 10%, 5% and 16% switch their brands/service providers/retails due to better services and enhanced features.


Customer service excellence still lacks in banking and telecom sectors of UAE. Let’s have a look at some testimonials of the same:


According to a social media website, almost 20% members of a local bank in UAE had negative and bad reviews about customer care practices. The reason was the poor communication of banking staff and information gap. In addition, majority of the customer complaints were not entertained, despite several reminders to the bank. Such poor customer service practices can greatly affect customer loyalty and trust.


With the increasing number of mobile subscribers, it has become more challenging for UAE telecom operators to fulfill customer demands and expectations. Despite continuous improvement in telecom services and products, there are still some gaps in customer service areas. The result turns subscribers with no choice other than switching their telecom operator.

It has been observed that majority of the upcoming social media complaints are from mobile subscribers who have been using the services of a particular telecom company for more than 15 years. Getting unhappy response from long term customers can be harmful for the company reputation, as well as leaves a bad impression for new subscribers.


(Retail experts are warning stores in the UAE not to overlook customer service in a rush to expand their operations)

Speaking at the ‘In-Retail Summit’ in Dubai, dated September 8, 2013, Mr. Farhan Mirza, the Principal at a Consulting firm AT Kearney’s Middle East, stated:

‘Customer experience is an area that has been overlooked. Retailers must realize that interaction with a customer goes beyond just a glossy point of sale. It’s also about the training given to the sales assistants, how effective their website is, and how they use customer data to tailor what they offer.’

He further elaborated:

‘The competition is increasing. As you’re fighting for every dirham, you have to make sure that you’re not losing money by not thinking about service, because consumers are now demanding not just more, but better.’

The head of IT and Mobility at Samsung Electronics’ Enterprise Business Group, Mr. Karan Chopra, expressed his views by advising shoppers that:

‘Shops must adopt a counselling approach and consult customers about their wants and needs instead of just concentrating on footfall.’


Aiming to raise the efficiency of government service delivery by focusing on the customer, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai launched ‘Emirates Government Service Excellence Program’, in March 2011.

The program trained 5000 customer service employees of the customer service centers, in light of a service quality manual containing:

  1. the best methods of customer management
  2. services that exceeds customer’s expectations
  3. ways to identify customer needs and aspirations
  4. delivering services according to the highest global standards
  5. providing data and information in a timely and organized manner
  6. addressing customer complaints and feedback

In addition, the ‘Customer Service Charter’ and ‘UAE Federal Feedback Gateway – My GOV’ are two other major initiatives being taken by UAE Government as part of ‘Emirates Government Service Excellence Program’. UAE government has implemented this charter in 39 federal entities as a commitment towards its customers to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of their services.

Secondly, My GOV framework provides a gateway to deal with customer’s and employee’s feedback. Now Emirati customers can give their valuable remarks and suggestions to government and federal entities through a wide range of channels, including a visit in person, or by website, phone, fax, post and email.

Substantial service improvement and changing customer experience from satisfaction to happiness reflects UAE government efforts and commitment towards reaching excellence in service delivery by achieving customers’ satisfaction, exceeding their expectations, and opening communication channels with them to identify and fulfill their needs.