UAE banking customers prefer mobile apps over call centres

But the human touch is still needed for complaints and complex banking needs, a new Avaya survey reveals

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. May 15, 2017///

Michael Routledge, Founder of The Debt Panel - One Year On. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Mona Al Marzooqi/ The National 

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Reporter: Alice Haine
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UAE banking customers prefer making transactions via mobile banking channels rather than dealing with an adviser by phone, a new survey has revealed.

About 61 per cent of UAE consumers said they preferred their bank’s website or mobile app to make a transaction, with a quarter saying they would choose an app service over chatting to a customer agent on the phone, according to the Customer Experience in Banking Survey from Avaya, a smart solutions provider.

The survey highlighted the importance of healthy customer engagement as 41 per cent of those polled said they would change their bank if they experienced bad customer service. About 38 per cent would tell their friends and acquaintances about any negative banking encounters and nearly half said they would lodge a formal complaint with their bank.

While enhanced digital channels are important, a fifth of those polled said they would visit a bank’s branch for more complex services.

“Banks here are definitely better suited to branch visits for most banking services and this is often due to the fact that they need to see original documents (a passport, residency, stamped employer certificates),” said Michael Routledge, the founder of, a debt advisory site.

Avaya polled 5,000 banking customers in the UAE, UK, Australia and India for the study. The survey also found over half of customers in the Emirates want their problems resolved at the first point of contact.

“I tend to complain over the phone, as I’m loathed to waste my time visiting a branch for little or no outcome,” said Mr Routledge said. “One development is complaining via social media. Public social media complaints often force a response to protect the brand of the bank which is great for the consumer.”

Emirates NBD announced last month it is investing Dh1 billion in digital technology over the next three years - a move that is in line with underlying changes in the banking industry.

Globally banks are increasingly streamlining their physical presence and investing in technology and digital wallets, shifting their focus to mobile services as they vie to retain and increase their customer base.

"Time is precious these days, and people increasingly want to transact, buy and compare on the web or through mobile, simply because it allows them to complete these tasks in their spare time. People want that convenience; they don’t want to be going to branches and sitting in queues if they can help it," said Jonathan Rawling, chief financial officer at the comparison website, Yallacompare. "Customer service here is, in general, frustrating. Organisations here tend to confuse customer service with having a customer service team. A typical experience is that you phone with a very specific problem, and you’ll reach someone who will talk very politely to you, but won’t have the authority or the knowledge to really address the problem."

Yaser Alzubaidi, engagement solutions sales leader for Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa at Avaya, said: “For banks in the UAE today, delivering a superior customer experience requires co-ordination across all customer touchpoints - whether online or offline.

“We do see that mobile platforms are increasingly popular channels through which to engage banks as technologies like voice and video move digital. Yet while we may reach customer support through a mobile app, I think customers will always want to be able to speak to a live person.”

A recent Yallacompare survey of 3,500 UAE residents found that 80 per cent of respondents would recommend their bank to others.