Dubai: The overall level of customer service provided by banks in the UAE has improved slightly since last year, but a lot has to be done to meet consumer expectations, a new benchmarking index showed.

Ethos consultancy’s latest Bank Benchmarking Index (BBI) revealed that the number of banks that scored high, or more than 80 per cent, this year has dropped from 12 to 7. The banks’ overall average score has improved by only .65 per cent.

According to the report, furnished to Gulf News ahead of the announcement of the full results, the banking industry still needs to work more on several areas, such as cross-selling of products, providing further assistance and contacting customers within 48 hours of submitting a query on the bank’s website.

The benchmarking index is conducted every year to provide the industry with a barometer for customer service performance. This year’s study was conducted between May and July 2013, during which time Ethos researchers logged 460 branch visits, 276 call centre calls and 184 website interactions.

“Overall, there was an improvement in bank performance as the customer service advisors and tellers showed improvements in terms of product knowledge and greet customers,” said Jad Rammal, director of measurement solutions at Ethos Consultancy.

With regards to their call centres, the banks have made the interactive voice response (IVR) system more user-friendly and the agents have been friendly to customers.

“The overall website performance has not improved, however, the banks did make it easy to navigate, as more customers were able to find what they were looking for within three clicks,” Rammal said.

The report recommended that as consumer attitudes continue to evolve and considering that there’s rapid development of online services and competition among financial institutions is increasing, the customer service of banks “must perform at the highest levels so as to create a sustainable value for their customers.”

“The UAE banking industry is in transition, driven by changing customer attitudes, the rapid development of online services and ever increasing competition. Consumer expectations have outpaced most companies’ ability to make meaningful connections across multiple touch-points,” the report said.

This year’s study also indicates that six of last year’s top 10 banks are in this year’s top 10 positions out of the 23 banks included in the research. Among the banks surveyed, 19 of them are local brands and 4 are international banks.

Ethos will reveal the full results of the study and announce the overall top bank in customer service during the UAE Customer Service Week next month.