Customer Service in Emirates – A Challenge in a Diverse CultureCustomer service plays a vital role in today’s highly competitive market. Between the ever increasingdemand 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 factorto 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 deeplysegmented populous and growing tourism we have ourselves a unique set of characteristics, includingbut not limited to varying market trends and buying preferences. However, while such variance may existindefinitely, there is also that one universal constant to customer service, Quality.Customer Service Essence vs. Customer Service FunctionCustomer service essence refers to the dedication and commitment of an employee to deliver the highestquality of service and support to the client. Organizations must strive to build strong customer relationsand induce customer loyalty; the idea is to develop customers into promoters. A promoter or anevangelist is defined as a customer who relates to your product/service, has fair repurchasing ratio andadvertises your brand or service through his word of mouth, bringing in more customers. The customerservice essence lies with delivering customer centric service. With the right motivational tool,organizations can create an enthusiastic and dedicated service task force.Customer Service – U.A.E. ScenarioMr. Keay of YouGov Study Group for “The National”, U.A.E. explained, “While better than elsewhere inthe region, customer service in the UAE lagged behind Europe and North America.” People coming infrom the West, they are traumatized by it”.In Arab Emirates with the exception of the telecommunication and tourism companies, the general stateof 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 culturalawareness can alienate the customer, while the service representatives themselves may find it difficult togauge customer requirements and service expectations. Managing a multi-ethnic customer base alsoincites communication issues, while the language barrier is not that significant, a lot can be lost intranslation. Given that 90% of U.A.E. population is foreign, there is a need for routine trainings andemployee education.A recent study held in U.A.E., reveals that almost 50% of the companies interviewed found customersatisfaction strategies to be important when focusing on customer service. Staff inspiration is also takeninto 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 givelittle importance to proper follow ups, whether it’s a feedback or resolving a complaint promptly. This isperpetuated 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 payingmore attention to customer needs, responding to complaints and collecting valuable feedback. It isimportant that service standards are constantly monitored as it is not enough to just have guidelines andrules; they must also be acted upon and revised accordingly.TrendsAcross all the countries, voice is still considered to be a major communication channel, but in recentyears, 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 byForrester Research.1- SaaS Solutions for Customer Service – Smart Choice Getting PopularityCustomer service systems and technologies play a pivotal role in determining service quality. No matter ifit’s a call center or a self-service web application, customer service systems are very important inestablishing 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% ofcompanies reporting on adoption or the plan to do so in the near future, service is likely to become moreexpedient.2- Outsourcing – Slowly Gaining Market ShareOutsourcing is gaining some pace slowly, according to Forrester nearly 20% of companies outsourcedcustomer service, whereas nearly 8% are aggressively planning to do so in the near future.Expert OpinionsCustomer service quality can be perceived differently, by different people. While UAE is not the worstplace in terms of service quality, there is a noticeable difference in service standards (in comparison toWestern/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 differentexpectations.”“The guy in RAK will only want to see one person – and that’s the branch manager.” According toYouGov that while staff is polite, they lack knowledge and detailed information about the product and/orservice. However, proper training by customer service professionals within the company can help yieldpositive results.“The talent available is limited and that’s a big challenge for the banks.” says DS Ravikumar, the vicepresident 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 thatthe staff has the necessary product knowledge and can communicate the information that the customer islooking for.”Social MediaSocial 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 aretalking 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 andfeedback. Social media is all about transparency, hence businesses should look to take advantage ofpositive 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 answerfrequently 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 utilizeFacebook to connect with friends and family, rather than finding businesses. From a business-to-businessperspective, LinkedIn has been more effective in connecting with customers and/or creating businesscontacts.Cynthia Boris, a social media proponent and write explains, “Handing customer service via a publicmedium is like walking through a muddy mine field. At the very least, you’re going to get dirty. Take onewrong step and game is over.” For example grocery chain Wegmans went so far as to close theirFacebook Page. Their response was, “Monitoring the page was too much time consuming and complaintsoften went unanswered for an unacceptable period of time.”Recommendations Develop a more customer-centric culture within organizations Prioritize customer feedback and resolve issues to foster loyalty in clients Improve relevant professional knowledge of products and services in order to better assist the customer Provide professional ethics and responsibility training, to improve organization’s outlook and the culture within Provide multilingual training, and hire a diversified staff to encourage learning and tolerance Encourage employee participation, feedback and suggestions; by engaging the frontline work force organization can become more proactive in problem resolution Conduct Seminars and Workshop on recurring basis for personal development Establish quality standards, and continually monitor and review them as appropriate Establish Key Performance Indicators for CSRs, award distinction and provide feedback where necessary Work with disgruntled customers, have your most experienced CSRs handle the situation; learn from mistake and be polite and sympathetic to customer concerns Learn from customer feedback
ConclusionKeeping Arab Emirates in perspective, a lot of improvement is required to enhance the existing servicestandards. Due to cross-cultures and Umulti ethnicity, customer service representative must be trained todeal with complex situations. A CSR is expected to communicate properly, be courteous to the customerand 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,” explaineda management consultant at the UAE Customer Service Week, October 2012.