x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Customer service case studies

In the UAE, the customer is not always king. The National on Saturday spoke to three people who had experienced unsatisfactory customer service.

The National on Saturday spoke to three people who had experienced unsatisfactory customer service. The two named businesses concerned were invited to respond. Benjamin Brodrick, a client relationship manager at the Dubai-based customer service consultancy firm Ethos Consultancy, offers his expert opinion on what should have happened.

Hamdan Mohamed brought his BlackBerry from the United States to the UAE and took it to Etisalat to set it up for use in his home country. He handed it over at one of the telecommunications company's branches for a technician to configure it for unlimited service. The service should have cost him roughly Dh250 ($68) per month, but when he got his first monthly bill, he was shocked to discover it was more than Dh7,000. Mr Mohamed, who is the chief executive of Teqaniya.com, which manages websites that cater for the Middle East market, called Etisalat to complain. "I told them it was not my mistake; it was actually their mistake because they did the set-up, not me," he says. Mr Mohamed eventually spoke to a manager who told him it was not their problem, but suggested he write a formal complaint. He did, but had to pay the bill in full first. Mr Mohamed eventually received a response in the mail saying it was his own responsibility to pay the bill. After that incident last year, and hearing friends and colleagues complain of other bad customer service experiences, Mr Mohamed launched MErating.com in April. Consumers can post their reviews and problems with customer service in the UAE, but each complaint is sent to the company itself before it goes online. Etisalat told The National: "We are concerned that our customers feel that they have received unsatisfactory service. We invite them to contact us in order that we can investigate this situation and come to the right solution." Advice "Etisalat should have basically tried to resolve the customer's issue, rather than stick to their guns. Even if the client is wrong to an extent, they should try to meet him halfway."

Fahed Bizzari hired a car from a small rental company in Sharjah for his visiting father-in-law. The car battery died that same evening. So he rang the company that night to let them know, and to ask for help, which he fully expected to receive. Instead, he said the response was: "Go to the industrial area and buy a battery." Faced with no alternative but to help himself, Mr Bizzari, the chief executive and founder of the web consultancy Online Associates, decided in the end to leave the car for the company to pick up and get a replacement vehicle. The following day, he and his father-in-law returned to the company and requested a new car. Although it was a small company, he was renting a high-end car and expected it to come with good service. "We started to fill in the details to get a second car. "The man dealing with us said to me, 'If I knew this was your attitude, I would not have given you the car in the first place.'" Mr Bizzari and his father-in-law then decided to take their custom elsewhere and went to a different rental company. He said that while he thought customer service in general across the UAE was poor, there were some companies that were extremely helpful, and there had been some improvement. "Companies in this country need to realise that dedication to customer service will pay, and to do that, they need to empower their employees to deliver that service." Advice "They should have taken the call and had a system in place to either replace the car or the battery, and ensure that the customer was satisfied with the end result. Because it appears that they've just totally ignored their requirements."

Lucy Roberts went to a Mashreq bank branch at 8.45am last Thursday, hoping to get some business-related banking done once it opened at 9am. Half an hour later, the doors had still not opened, and the day's heat began to swell. By 9.30am, the staff at the branch in Dubai finally let customers in. "I can understand that people might be late sometimes. But they opened the door, with no apologies for waiting outside. And the teller was on her cellphone," Ms Roberts claimed. When asked about the late opening, Ms Roberts said the teller just shrugged her shoulders and said the system was down anyway. Ms Roberts went to another branch to get her banking done. An account director at the Dubai-based web-design firm Plug, she filed a complaint on the bank's website, and made a complaint by phone and fax. She wrote a formal complaint and handed it to the branch. "In a global recession, this would be a perfect opportunity to take my business elsewhere to a bank where customer service is important," she wrote in her letter. The bank has still has not responded personally to Ms Roberts. A bank spokesman said: "We regret the fact that one of our customers faced an uncomfortable experience in one of our branches." He said an investigation found the branch was fully operational at 9.05am and there was no system failure on the day. Employees are forbidden to use any of their personal mobile devices at any time behind the teller desks, he added. "We continue to strive to service all our customers and give them more convenient banking services and solutions." Advice "They need to empathise, understand, and work out what needs to happen to satisfy the customer. It's all about making the customer feel valued."