UAE banks improve customer sentiment by seven percentage points: KPMG report

Banks in the UAE have improved their customer satisfaction rankings, according to a study by KPMG and DataEQ, based on nearly 100 000 public tweets retrieved from 1 January to 31 December 2022.

The UAE Banking Sentiment Index, which used unique Crowd and AI technology to analyse banks and their customers’ concerns in relation to service, products, reputational risk, and market conduct, found that Net Sentiment improved year-on-year in the industry, with banks showing a seven-percentage point improvement in performance compared to the previous year.

A total of seven banks were benchmarked in the analysis, including Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Commercial Bank of Dubai, Dubai Islamic Bank, Emirates NBD, First Abu Dhabi Bank, and Mashreq Bank UAE. From among these, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank recorded the highest operational Net Sentiment score, and Dubai Islamic Bank maintained the top ranking for its reputational performance. Commercial Bank of Dubai topped the ranking in terms of overall Net Sentiment.

Despite overall progress, the operational performance of most banks was impacted by service complaints due to slow turnaround time, as well as account admin, transfer delays and loan applications. On a positive note, the average customer response rate improved, with almost two-thirds of priority conversations receiving a reply, albeit after 24 hours.

Abbas Basrai, Partner, and Head of Financial Services at KPMG Lower Gulf said: “It is very encouraging to note an overall improvement in Net Sentiment across major UAE retail banks in 2022 compared to the previous year. However, banks mustn’t become complacent and ignore persistent operational deficiencies that affect customer satisfaction. Increased digitalization presents banks with a unique opportunity to streamline services and eliminate silos – which they must leverage to serve customers better in the future.”

There was a surge in risk-related conversations, with service interruptions and suspected fraudulent transactions influencing consumer cancellation threats. Debit and credit accounts also witnessed complaints due to delayed transactions and service issues. When it came to customer communications channels, call centres registered the highest levels of negative sentiment, eliciting frequent customer complaints. There was a drop in sentiment in new customer service standards, signifying the need for banks to ensure they meet their customers’ expectations after onboarding them.

Nic Ray, Chief Executive Officer, DataEQ, said: “New customer experiences are vital in the overall journey as they set the tone for the relationship between the bank and customer. As such, the sudden drop in sentiment from the pre-customer stage to new customer stage signifies a gap between the level of service that customers expected, and what was delivered by the banks. When delving into the root cause of these unmet expectations, turnaround time was a major driver of frustration by current customers, followed by staff competency.”

The study also highlighted customers’ growing pain points in relation to products, with account irregularities, malfunctioning cards and ATMs, and long turnaround times among the most cited complaints. Accounts and transactions remaining frozen for long periods of time was also a prominent grievance among customers.

With the UAE’s continued focus on digitalization, operational issues across digital channels should be of high priority for banks. Banks operating in the region have a unique opportunity to create a significant business advantage by capitalizing on digital services.

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