x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Customer service is improving in Abu Dhabi - but very slowly

It might not always seem like it, but consumers are being treated better, a local consultancy says.

ABU DHABI // It might not always seem like it, but customer service in Abu Dhabi is getting better, a local consultancy says. However, it might take several years before people really notice a difference. Ali Nimer, who works with Ethos Consultancy, which offers advice to companies and Government agencies on customer service, said the global financial crisis was having a knock-on effect on staff training and English skills.

"Companies in the private and public sector are taking steps to improve [services], especially in light of the [economic] crisis," he said. A YouGov study commissioned by The National last year found that customer service in the UAE, while better than in other GCC states, lagged behind the standard in Europe and North America. Local firms, telecommunications companies, estate agents, taxis, insurance companies and municipal service centres were deemed the worst, while hotels, restaurants and airlines got high marks.

Unlike the boom years, when a dissatisfied customer could be easily replaced, companies are now realising the importance of a loyal and happy clientele. "Any organisation will not risk losing their customers," Mr Nimer said. However, since implementing new policies, hiring staff and improving training are time-intensive, it will be several years before people notice real improvements, he added. In addition, the consultancy believes front-line staff are often not properly screened. Shy, deferential people are put in positions that require direct interaction with customers, and staff receive inadequate customer service training, it said.

Many are also easily cowed by loud, abusive customers. Yaser Wahib, 38, a Palestinian engineer who has lived in the capital for six years, is a consumer who notices the problems. "Mainly people don't have the necessary experience to provide the service," he said. "Then it comes down to people who don't have the authority to resolve your problems." However, Mr Nimer said consumers can help companies by communicating with managers when they are unhappy.

"Customers themselves have to make sure they're communicating information, what they're happy with and what they're not happy with," he said. "People should go back to the manager." jgerson@thenational.ae