x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Hands-on response to bad service

Consumers are being urged to share their experiences in dealing with banks, stores, government bodies and other organisations for UAE Customer Service Week.

A man orders fish and chips at a well-known restaurant, but when the food arrives it is cold.

He tells the waiter, who places his hand on the fish to confirm that it is cold. Ten minutes later the waiter returns with the same plate of food, warmed up.

A bank customer is having trouble making an urgent online transfer to his offshore account. He contacts the bank, but has to wait 12 days before an adviser at the offshore branch solves the problem within five minutes.

These are two of the true stories that have been reported to the organisers of the second annual UAE Customer Service Week, a conference that starts today in Abu Dhabi.

The initiative coincides with similar events around the world to give what the organisers say is a much-needed boost to service standards.

Consumers are being urged to share their experiences - good and bad - in dealing with banks, stores, government bodies and other organisations through the event's Facebook page, which can be reached on the website customerserviceweek.ae.

Robert Keay, the managing director of Ethos Consultancy, which is running the conference, said there was a lack of focus on customers in all areas and the situation was not improving.

"I set up Ethos eight years ago and I've seen some peaks and troughs in that time, but I've not seen any consistent improvement in any sector," Mr Keay said.

"You cannot point to any organisation where you can say, 'OK, they will deliver for the next 365 days consistently great, excellent customer service'.

"The objective is to make organisations aware that there's only one person with the money and it's called the customer."

Mr Keay said he knew from first-hand experience the sorts of problems customers faced.

"I recently wanted to upgrade the TV channels and it involved a huge, complex myriad of meetings and phone calls, and going home to open your apartment door and no one turns up, and it's just not needed," he said.

"You can go into a palatial bank with leather seating but they don't know about the account you want."

There are a few bright spots. Research by Ethos shows local banks consistently provide better service than most international banks operating here.

"The local banks are grabbing the ball and running with it in terms of customer service," Mr Keay said.

UAE Customer Service Week continues at the Sheraton Abu Dhabi until Thursday. The public can follow discussions on Twitter and share views through LinkedIn.