Three quarters (75%) of board members and senior managers at UAE financial services organisations are most concerned about increased competition over the next 12 months, according to a study by the Collinson Group published today. The research found that UAE financial services providers such as banks, credit card companies and insurers are significantly more concerned about competition than their counterparts in the UK and Singapore.
According to the Collinson Group, this increased competitive pressure is focusing the minds of UAE financial services executives on their customers to a greater extent than in either Singapore or the UK. The key issues highlighted by respondents include: ensuring a consistent customer experience (cited by 45% of UAE respondents, compared with as little as 27% in Singapore), achieving brand differentiation (45% compared with 32% in the UK), and, harnessing customer insights and data (45% compared with 33% in the UK).
Loyalty holds the key
Investment in loyalty and other customer engagement initiatives looms large on the priority list of UAE financial executives. Over the next 12 months, almost half (48%) plan to invest in developing and improving customer loyalty initiatives, whereas two fifths (39%) anticipate engaging with customers via digital and social channels of importance. Many institutions in the UAE are in fact shunning “traditional” communication channels and engaging with customers using social methods in order to satisfy the needs of the increasingly mobile-focused customer.
The Collinson Group study also highlighted the unique customer dynamics of the UAE marketplace, which has a comparatively high proportion of transient residents. As a consequence, financial services organisations in the region only expect to retain customers for between one and three years, whereas almost half (45%) of respondents in both Singapore and the UK expect to retain customers between four and five years.
Whilst commitment to customers is high amongst UAE institutions, financial professionals are less concerned over regulation: only 39% of UAE companies cite it as a key consideration for this year compared to 57% in Singapore and nearly two thirds of respondents (65%) in the UK.
Christopher Evans, Director, Collinson Group commented, “Financial services executives in the UAE recognise that building emotional engagement with their customers will help combat the threat of losing customers in an increasingly competitive marketplace. With such a high proportion of short-term residents, UAE providers need to constantly work to win over new customers – and prove to existing ones they have made the right choice.”
“This depends on doing two things right. First, they need to invest in gaining insight to better understand their customers, and second, they must seek to add value at all customer interaction points in a relevant way.”
Delivering value is not only important to retain customers but also in terms of customer acquisition. It takes time to achieve high levels of customer engagement, so it is important for banks to build the foundations now. For these initiatives to succeed, they need endorsement at the highest level, insights need to be shared across the organisation, and the process of improvement needs to be integral to the organisation and continuous.
We encourage financial service organisations to act now if they are to combat the risk of being left behind by faster-moving competitors who prioritise customer experience”.