Background to the study
Banks constitute an important component in a country’s economic growth and development. Capgemini & Efma (2013) asserts that banks play a significant role in spurring economic growth. For example, banks are a major source of finance for large, together with small and medium enterprises in a country. Additionally, banks are an important source of finance for individual investors. The banking industry is comprised of both private and public organisations.
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The UAE banking industry has experienced remarkable growth over the past few years due to the high rate of liberalisation. Investors are venturing into the industry to exploit the available market opportunity. The industry has over 50 banks, which illustrates the intensity of competition (Oxford Business Group 2008).
The banking industry has undergone significant growth over the past decade. For example, the total banking sector assets increased from US$ 49 billion to US$ 509 billion during the period ranging between 1995 and 2013 (Sambidge 2013). The UAE banking industry is ranked as the largest in the MENA region [the Middle East and North Africa], which illustrates the high rate of growth in the industry.
Even though the financial services sector accounts for only 1.1% of the total employment in the UAE, the sector contributes substantially to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In 2012, the UAE banking industry accounted for 10.2% of the country’s total non-oil GDP.
The Emirates National Bank of Dubai (Emirates NBD) is one of the firms that operate in the UAE’s banking industry. The firm is a public limited company, and it was established in 2007. The company is headquartered in Dubai. The firm specialises in the provision of Islamic, consumer, corporate, and treasury banking services. The company has established other branches in Saudi Arabia, UK, Qatar, and the Channel Island.
One of the reasons that explain the high rate of industry growth relates to the adoption of effective strategic management practices such as quality management. Oxford Business Group (2008) asserts that quality is a key element in organisations’ efforts to achieve continued competitiveness. Furthermore, providing customers with high-quality products and services is the only way through which profit-oriented firms can assure stakeholders of the sustainability of the firm’s profitability.
However, this goal can only be achieved if firms in the banking industry are in a position to increase their customer base. Subsequently, ensuring a high level of customer satisfaction is no longer an option. Failure to integrate customer orientation might affect the Emirates NBD efforts to achieve its profitability goal.
The UAE banking industry has become complex over the past few decades, as evidenced by several issues. First, the industry has experienced a significant increment in the intensity of competition. A study conducted by the Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank shows that the UAE banking industry is the most competitive in the Gulf region (Sambidge 2013).
Over 8 million Emiratis are serviced by 51 banks, which have established over 840 outlets and over 4,000 Automated Teller Machines (Sambidge 2013). Twenty-eight (28) of the banks are foreign-owned, while 23 banks are domestic. This aspect shows that the industry is very fragmented.
A research conducted by Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 2008 shows that the UAE banking industry would experience an increment in the intensity of competition due to the country’s ascension to the World Trade Organisation (Oxford Business Group 2008). Furthermore, the UAE government is committed to establishing a free trade agreement with the United States. These changes will open the industry to more foreign banks.
To deal with intense competition, most banks in the UAE are adjusting their operations. For example, banks are adopting online banking technologies to improve the level of customer satisfaction. Emirates NBD has adopted the concept of online banking to reach a large number of customers. However, the UAE banking industry has experienced a significant increment in security challenges.
Numerous cases of hacking on the UAE banks’ websites have been recorded over the past few years. In 2012, the UAE Central Bank issued a memo to all banks to implement effective measures to curb Internet hacking (Smith 2012). This aspect presents a major challenge in the Emirates NBD effort to increase and retain customers.
Customers in the UAE’s banking industry are increasingly experiencing a challenge arising from the high rate at which consumers are inclining to the quality of banking service provided by their respective banks. A study conducted by Arabian Business and iProspect in 2013 showed that 50% of the banked population in the UAE are concerned about the quality of banking services offered in their banks and would consider switching to a more effective bank (Sambidge 2013).
The respondents cited high transaction fees and poor customer service as the main reasons why they would consider switching.
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The above challenges underscore the importance of Emirates NBD investing in customer focus efforts to achieve its profit maximisation and long-term survival objectives. Adopting customer focus strategies will improve the effectiveness with which the firm delivers a high level of satisfaction amongst its customers. Subsequently, the firm will be in a position to achieve its quality improvement objective. This move will improve the effectiveness with which the firm achieves sustainability about profitability and hence its long term survival.
This research study will focus on one main objective, viz.
To analyse how Emirates NBD can improve the quality of services provided and hence its competitiveness by investing in customer-focus strategies.
This study will be guided by the null and the alternative hypothesis, which is linked with the research objective.
- Null hypothesis- H0: Investing in customer focus strategies will improve the Emirates NBD’s competitiveness and hence, its long term survival in the UAE banking industry.
- Alternate hypothesis- H1: Investing in customer focus will not have a significant effect on the Emirates NBD’s competitiveness and long-term survival.
Significance, ethical considerations, and limitations of the study
The study will be of great importance to the Emirates NBD’s management team in its quest to give customers high-quality banking service. The study will identify the various aspects that customers consider in consuming banking services. Subsequently, the Emirates NBD’s management team will be in a position to identify gaps in its customer satisfaction efforts. Therefore, the firm will be in a position to implement effective continuous quality improvement.
The study will consider the Emirates NBD’s employees and customers as the major respondent groups. Before conducting the study, the researcher will seek permission from the Emirates NBD’s management team. This aspect will aid in eliminating the suspicion in the process of conducting the study. Furthermore, the researcher will obtain informed consent from the firm’s employees and customers before conducting the research to aid in increasing the likelihood of gathering sufficient and reliable data from the respondents.
During the actual research, the researcher will also ensure that the respondents are accorded the necessary respect. For example, the researcher will ensure that the respondents are not coerced to answer the research questions. This move will aid in establishing a strong relationship with the respondents.
One of the major limitations that the researcher expects to encounter in the course of conducting the study relates to the scarcity of resources. In a bid to deal with this challenge, the researcher will select a sample from the target population, which will represent the total population. Subsequently, the researcher assumes that the findings of the study are representative of the prevailing situation in the Emirates NBD.
According to Mehrabi, Nasiripour, and Delgoshaei (2008), focusing on the customer is a key factor in determining the extent to which an organisation succeeds in its total quality management programs. Gulati and Oldroyd (2005) assert that customer focus is the cornerstone in banks’ efforts to develop a strong customer-bank relationship.
Organisations gain customers’ trust and loyalty by putting their interests first. The global banking industry experienced a significant reduction in the level of customer trust during the 1970s and 1980s due to their focus on consolidation. This aspect led to the creation of impersonal institutions.
Furthermore, banks have continued to experience a challenge in the quest to differentiate their operations. A report released by Capgemini & Efma (2013) on World Retail Banking shows that the challenge has intensified over the past few years.
Capgemini & Efma (2013. p.6) argues that the ‘look and the feel of basic banking products have remained largely the same, with very little innovation in terms of linking products or developing them outside their traditional silos.’ The existence of cost pressures and regulatory challenges has limited the banks’ ability to differentiate their operations based on price.
Despite the prevailing challenges, the report argues that banks still have an opportunity to improve their performance. One of the ways through which banks can achieve this goal is by creating a unique customer experience, which has the capability of improving the ability to attract and retain customers (Gulati & Oldroyd 2005). Subsequently, banks will be in a position to improve their competitive advantage. Currently, customers are increasingly focusing on efficiency in making decisions on store loyalty.
A report by Capgemini & Efma (2013) on Customer Experience Index (CEI) shows that the level of customer experience in banks globally increased marginally. The Canadian, the American, and the UAE banks have the most effective customer focus strategy, which is evidenced by a CEI of 72.1, 73.5, and 73.0, respectively (Capgemini & Efma 2013).
Despite the efforts made by most banks around the world to develop strong customer experience, their efforts have not paid-off about enhancing customer loyalty. A study on the global banking industry shows that approximately 10% of customers will switch to another bank within the next six months in search of better customer services (Capgemini & Efma 2013).
One the other hand, 41% of customers are not certain of their continued stay in their respective banks (Capgemini & Efma 2013). This realisation implies that over 50% of customers in the global banking industry are not satisfied with the quality of customer service offered by their banks.
Capgemini & Efma (2013) asserts that one of the ways through which banks can achieve customer focus is by developing a comprehensive understanding of the customers’ needs and expectations. During the 1950s, banks in the world had adopted effective customer focus strategies by developing products that were aligned with the customers’ needs.
However, the banks experienced an exponential increment in a customer base from the 1970s, which led to the loss of touch with customers. Subsequently, their operations were not inclined towards developing the strong customer experience.
Currently, the banking industry has undergone a remarkable revolution arising from the high rate of technological development. For example, Allen and Gale (2004, p.470) note that the emergence of ‘ATMs, mobile technology, and the Internet have presented banks with an opportunity to expand their banking channels.’
These avenues can improve the effectiveness with which banks interact with their customers significantly. However, banks must ensure that the customer-bank relationship developed is not affected adversely. Subsequently, banks must ensure that the channel adopted is aligned with the customers’ needs, and it contributes to a high level of operational efficiency.
The aim of this study is to evaluate the role of continuous quality improvement in the Emirates NBD’s efforts to deal with the challenges emanating from the micro and macro business environment. Subsequently, the researcher will integrate effective research methodology by considering several aspects, which include the research design, method of data collection, and data analysis.
This study will adopt both qualitative and quantitative research designs to improve the quality of the study. Integrating effective research design improves the reliability of the study. Research design makes a study to be logical. Maxwell (2005) argues that qualitative research design is a multi-method of research, which is naturalistic and interpretive. Subsequently, the researcher obtains information or data from the natural setting, hence enhancing the credibility of a study’s findings.
Adopting a qualitative research design will improve the credibility of a study by providing the researcher with an opportunity to gather a substantial amount of data from the field. The decision to adopt a qualitative research design is informed by the exploratory nature of the study.
Moreover, adopting a qualitative research design will lead to the collection of a wide range of data. Subsequently, the researcher will integrate quantitative research design to condense the data collected. Furthermore, adopting a quantitative research design will enable the target audience to interpret the data easily.
Population and sample
The researcher will focus on Emirates NBD’s employees and customers as the target population. These individuals have a better understanding of Emirates NBD’s quality management activities. However, the researcher can’t consider all the firm’s employees as respondents due to the high cost and time requirement. Demming (2002, p.23) asserts that conducting ‘a study on a sample is easier and manageable, and thus, a researcher can conduct a thorough investigation.’
Subsequently, the random sampling technique will be adopted by selecting a sample, which entails a subset of the total population. The researcher will adopt simple random sampling to provide individuals in the target population an opportunity of being included in the study.
Moreover, adopting a random sampling technique will aid in eliminating bias. A sample of 20 employees and 50 customers will be selected. The researcher will consider employees at different levels of management to gain a general overview of the firm’s quality operation processes.
In a bid to improve the reliability of the research findings, the study will use primary and secondary sources of data. The primary sources of data will entail sourcing information from the Emirates NBD’s employees and customers. On the other hand, secondary sources of data will include reviewing past studies, reports, and other publications on the Emirates NBD’s operations about quality issues.
Primary data will be obtained via interviews and questionnaires as the main data collection instruments. Interviews will be conducted through the telephone while the questionnaires will be forwarded to the participants through their emails to minimise the cost of the study. The questionnaires will be semi-structured, which means that they will be comprised of open-ended and close-ended questionnaires.
Using open-ended questionnaires will increase the likelihood of gathering a substantial amount of data, as the respondents will be free to answer the questions. On the other hand, close-ended questionnaires will enable the researcher to obtain definite answers to some questions. The researcher will ensure that the research questions are formulated effectively to eliminate ambiguity. This aspect will enable the respondents to understand the questionnaires, hence increasing the likelihood of collecting accurate data.
Data analysis and presentation
The research questions will be analysed using Microsoft Excel. Using Microsoft Excel will enable the researcher to condense the data by using tables and graphs. Subsequently, the researcher will be in a position to analyse the voluminous data gathered. Furthermore, using Microsoft Excel will enable the researcher to analyse the research findings quantitatively using percentages. Additionally, presenting data using tables and graphs will allow the target audience to understand the findings of the study with ease.
The UAE banking industry is experiencing several challenges emanating from a change in customer behaviour, security challenges, and intense competition. The intensity of competition in the industry has arisen from increased liberalisation of the banking industry, the country’s ascension to the WTO, and the formation of free trade agreements.
On the other hand, customers are increasingly focusing on the quality of services provided. Furthermore, the industry has experienced a significant increment in security challenges because of technological advancement. Despite these challenges, firms in the industry must deliver a unique customer experience.
This study will enable the Emirates NBD management team to develop a better understanding of the relationship between customer focus and delivering a unique customer experience. Subsequently, the firm will improve the likelihood of dealing with the competitive challenges facing the UAE banking industry. Furthermore, adopting customer focus will also enable the firm to focus on the customers’ specific needs and preferences. The UAE’s banking industry is experiencing a challenge due to an increase in security challenges.
The industry has experienced several hackings, which have the potential of reducing the level of customer trust and hence, their loyalty. Persistence of this challenge might adversely affect the Emirates NBD’s efforts to attract and retain a strong customer base.
By developing a better understanding of the significance of nurturing a secure banking environment, the bank will be in a position to address the security challenges faced. For example, the bank will be in a position to implement secure banking systems to protect the customers’ savings and personal information.
Allen, F. & Gale, D. 2004, ‘Competition and financial stability’, Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, vol. 36 no.1, pp.453-480.
Capgemini & Efma: World retail banking report 2013.
Demming, W. 2002, Sample design in business research, John Wiley and Sons, New York.
Gulati, R. & Oldroyd, J. 2005, The quest for customer focus.
Maxwell, J. 2005, Qualitative research design: an interactive approach, Sage, New Jersey.
Mehrabi, F., Nasiripour, A. & Delgoshaei, B. 2008, ‘Customer focus level following implementation of quality improvement model in Tehran social security hospitals’, International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance, vol. 21 no. 6, pp. 562-568.
Oxford Business Group: Report; Dubai 2008, Oxford Business Group, Oxford.
Sambidge, A. 2013, 53% of UAE bank customers want to switch-poll.
Smith, M. 2012, UAE central bank thwarts website hacking attempt. Web.