There are consequences even for those businesses who try to conduct as much of their direct customer interactions through call centres. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Local businesses can cut down on any aspect of their operations given the way consumers are holding on to their cash these days. But for them to drastically change their customer service functions will still be hugely detrimental to their interests.

There are consequences even for those businesses who try to conduct as much of their direct customer interactions through call centres.

“They have the highest perceived negativity gap in meeting customer satisfaction levels,” said Faten Abu Gazaleh, president of Service Hero, a marketing services consultancy that recently brought out an index on consumer perceptions of key sectors operating here. As was reported earlier, local cafes scored high marks in meeting certain required satisfaction benchmarks, while the telecom sector — with its heavy reliance on out-of-sight interactions fared the worst.

The Service Hero index is built around eight ‘dimensions’, with each of them getting a score based on consumer feedback. Among these, call centres received the lowest weightage (around 13), while location had the highest (in the plus 70s). The other factors measured include staff attitude, speed of service, value for money, the brand’s website (which also scored low marks in local perceptions), reliability, and the nature of the product or service.

For online vendors in the UAE, the takeaways from the findings are clear. Online vendors must ensure that their portal’s appearance as well as their customer interaction processes — whether online or offline — are spot on. Anything less takes them down a one-way street.

In a statement, the company says, “Businesses need to be investing more in their digital platforms, call centres and interaction points to match the level of service provided in their physical locations.

“They will start losing customers if they do not take these warning signs seriously and act upon them. Their business growth depends on this,”

What of the location itself?

“It scores high because of the sheer convenience close proximity offers,” said Abu Gazaleh. “But in terms of creating brand loyalties, a store location is never much of a factor.”

The Service Hero findings are based on an online poll in which 23,000 featured, and from whom the views of 18,000-plus were certified and accepted. A similar survey was done in Kuwait.

The sectors that did particularly well from a customer satisfaction perspective were cafes, car dealerships and electronics/gadget vendors. Airlines also scored high marks.

“On electronics. customers gave a score of 80 compared with the 73 the category received in Kuwait and 77 for US vendors,” said Abu Gazaleh. “Supermarket brands also managed to put in good scores — with a satisfaction rating of 78 against the 76 and 73 from Kuwaiti and US consumers. In both categories, UAE retailers had the highest score highest anywhere.

“Sectors that haven’t fared as well are telecoms [with a 65 score] and banking [with 68].”

And what’s with cafes lording it over all other categories?

“It helps that local consumers are predisposed to going to coffee shops,” said Abu Gazaleh. “And frankly it’s not as complex a business model as the others in eliciting a certain level of customer satisfaction.”


What stokes the consumer interest?

* Women consumers in the UAE are more likely to assign a higher score in their interactions with retailers or service providers, They gave a 77.4 satisfaction rate and an 81.8 expectancy rate, while men only had a 78 expectancy rate and a 74.3 actual satisfaction rate.

* The index revealed that holders of high school degrees are the most satisfied, giving a score of 81, while university degree holders scored 75.3 and masters and PHD holders scored 72.3,