The UAE’s Vision 2030 and the country’s National Agenda were designed partly to help raise its Happiness Index concerning those of other countries, both in the Gulf and globally. Presently, the UAE is ranked number one in the region and the 21st worldwide regarding Happiness Index levels. However, an open letter from His Highness, Vice President Sheikh Mohammed, to all government departments confirmed the nation’s commitment to reaching its citizens’ highest satisfaction levels. In line with the above revelation, this paper explores the relevance of customer touchpoints in helping the UAE government and the private sector attain outstanding customer satisfaction feedback. Key touchpoints to be considered in this paper include the service delivery period, the Internet (including social media), and government policies. Using evidence from the existing literature, this report argues that the examination of touchpoints will help promote the objective of making the UAE the happiest nation across the world. Emphasis will be laid on aspirations encompassed in both the national agenda and the Vision 2030.
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Aims and Objectives
This report discusses the relevance of customer touchpoints in achieving remarkable customer satisfaction levels in the UAE in line with the national agenda and Vision 2030. It seeks to define and give relevant examples of ‘touchpoints’ for the present case. This report aims to identify and discuss the implications of said touchpoints for the UAE government. Further, it offers a reflection on the nation’s Happiness Index and investigates significant quality issues that limit the realization of UAE’s objective of becoming the happiest nation internationally.
Defining TouchPoints and Elaborating their Relevance
Numerous studies have addressed the subject of touchpoints and their contribution to enhancing customers’ satisfaction levels. As such, varying definitions have been put forward, depending on different authors’ viewpoints. For instance, according to Lim, Al-Aali, and Heinrichs (2015), touchpoints refer to all areas where companies interact with customers. This contact is not limited to the physical sense of the term. It encompasses online correspondence and advertising. Stein and Ramaseshan (2016) describe a touchpoint as any interaction between businesses and customers. According to these authors, such an encounter can be physical, communicative, or sensory (Stein & Ramaseshan, 2016).
Further, Lemon and Verhoef (2016) present touchpoints as all activities between organizations and stakeholders, affecting customers’ perception of their products and services. Today, the most frequent touchpoints include sales, emails, kiosks, telemarketing, mobile apps, and verbal communication. With the advent of digital technology, it is unsurprising that a growing number of touchpoints exist online (Stein & Ramaseshan, 2016). As expected, companies are deploying customer relationship management (CRM) technologies to manage various touchpoints. The aim is to maximize customer-company interactions while enhancing clients’ experience. This strategy results in higher sales, brand loyalty, and overall buyer satisfaction.
Touchpoints seek to enhance customers’ experience. Throughout the clients’ journey on a particular brand, they are likely to make judgments based on their first-hand encounters (Stein & Ramaseshan, 2016). Promotion tactics such as adverts, posters, and social media sites influence buyers’ decision-making. Therefore, identifying and ameliorating these touchpoints can enhance customers’ experiences and perceptions of some companies. Verhoef, Kannan, and Inman (2015) argue that businesses should put themselves in their customers’ shoes to best understand their journeys. Arguably, focusing on touchpoints is an effective way of identifying and addressing key areas that need to be improved to benefit a country’s population. Additionally, businesses are in constant need of creating awareness about their products, services, and corporate social responsibility (CSR). The above goals can be achieved effectively through the focus on touchpoints.
The UAE’s Happiness Index and its Implications for the Government
The UAE’s Happiness Index is already impressive. As earlier mentioned, this country is ranked the first in the region and the 21st out of 156 countries (Government.ae, 2018). However, the UAE is relentless in its pursuit of becoming the happiest nation in the world. It pegs this goal on both the national agenda and its Vision 2030. Its master plan addresses key components of government services, namely, healthcare, education, housing, infrastructure, and security.
On the other hand, its Vision 2030 addresses issues, including an integrated business environment, robust fiscal policy, efficient labor market, and stable financial markets, among others (Government.ae, 2018). In pursuit of both the national agenda and the Vision 2030, the UAE’s leadership recently appointed the minister for happiness, a position of its kind in the world. The step marked a major development toward promoting happiness and positivity as a mainstream attitude in the UAE. Important areas highlighted as core to the agenda of happiness include family cohesion, solidarity, patriotism, and excellence in sports (Government.ae, 2018). Below are some potential implications of the touchpoints identified for the UAE government.
The focus on touchpoints by the UAE government would mean close interactions with citizens. This plan may involve constant monitoring of citizens’ perceptions of government programs and policies. According to Al-Badi (2014), successful government strategies and policies should resonate with the population’s needs. The assertion differs from common practice by governments whereby the ruling class is detached from challenges that face the ordinary citizen. Therefore, the UAE government has been forced to work closely with people to ensure the success of all projects that seek to improve citizens’ happiness levels. The government has already demonstrated similar efforts on some occasions, for instance, during a public brainstorming event conducted via Twitter. During the exercise, vice president Sheikh Mohammed asked people to suggest ideas to boost healthcare delivery in the country (Al-Badi, 2014). The above scenario offers an illustration of touchpoints in action.
Service delivery time is a major challenge for all governments across the world. Ordinarily, people have to queue in long lines or even wait for months to be served in public offices. The UAE is no exception. In a study by Al-Badi (2014), the average service delivery time was revealed to be between 10-12 weeks in 2015. Another challenge was the duplication of services, which contributed to further delays. This situation resulted in a low customer satisfaction rate of 66% that caused the government to dedicate its efforts to identify new ways of reducing the delivery time (Al-Badi, 2014). The move by the government to focus on touchpoints made it easier to achieve better outcomes by addressing key population concerns. As such, the UAE will need to evaluate its service delivery capacity for the existing demand. For example, it may be revealed that some offices experience long queues, whereas others barely have customers. The UAE administration may have to consider increasing customer touchpoints by transferring some of the outputs to online platforms. Examples of services that can be obtained include applications for passports, driving licenses, and student loans. Improved efficiency in service delivery can result in better customer experience in the public and private sectors. Additionally, the UAE can save huge amounts of revenue by eliminating the need for physical locations to access government services.
Major Quality Issues Facing the UAE Government in Achieving Customer Satisfaction
As discussed above, the UAE has posted remarkable scores regarding its efforts to enhance customers’ experience. These scores apply to nationals and expatriates, although the former category reported a higher index (Rahman, Albaloshi, & Sarker, 2016). Additionally, some services, such as the government-run aviation industry, are regarded as the best in terms of customer satisfaction globally. However, despite an impressive record of accomplishment, the UAE public sector is not averse to various quality concerns that hinder the realization of its goal of offering quality services. The first major challenge entails long waiting times in government and private premises.
According to Hanif (2013), many UAE-based companies lose billions of dollars annually following their sluggishness in delivering services to citizens. This problem has been attributed to inadequate employee training on processing customer requests within a short time (Shedid & Russell, 2017). Also, people have complained about delays in service provision in hospitals following a chronic shortage of qualified medics in the country. A recent publication by the Health Authority of Dubai (HAAD) revealed that nearly 15% of physicians and 13% of nurses quit their jobs in 2012 after citing poor workplace facilities and unsatisfactory customer service standards (Hanif, 2013). The lack of non-uniform record management systems is a major cause of delays in healthcare facilities. Other similar setbacks are experienced in the road transport sector, whereby traffic delays consume at least Dh 2.9 billion annually (Hanif, 2013).
During the ninth yearly bank-benchmarking indicator for service quality held in October 2013 in the United Arab Emirates, it was revealed that the banking sector was lagging regarding its management of clients (Lasrado, 2018). Further, more than 60 percent of people interviewed revealed that they were unwilling to recommend their former employers to other individuals (Lasrado, 2018). In their defense, banks have blamed the prevailing unstable oil markets for the uncertainties witnessed in the industry. On the other hand, customers have cited reasons such as poor communication and unsatisfactory services as the cause of switching employers. This lack of brand loyalty costs business billions of dollars because they have to find new clients to replace those who leave. Telecommunications companies were ranked second after the banking industry among the brands with the lowest customer loyalty. The growing number of mobile subscribers has made it difficult to satisfy clients’ needs (Stein & Ramaseshan, 2016). These challenges are experienced in public and private-operated businesses.
Another major challenge relates to public housing. According to Abu-Hijleh, Manneh, AlNaqbi, AlAwadhi, and Kazim (2017), many UAE citizens regard the nation’s housing as costly. Higher numbers of non-nationals have reported similar observations, perhaps because, on average, they have lower incomes compared to nationals. Experts believe that the country’s industry is still recuperating from the worldwide effects of the global depression of 2008. Even though the value of houses in the UAE dropped post-2008, many people still cannot comfortably afford the prevailing market rents (Abu-Hijleh et al., 2017).
Additionally, construction delays have also resulted in high accommodation costs and safety concerns in the housing sector. Ur Rehman (2015) believes that government delays in approving construction plans and methods are the leading causes of such setbacks. The above factors have caused housing prices in the UAE to soar to unbelievable rates. For instance, Abu-Hijleh et al. (2017) found that a one-bedroom apartment in Abu Dhabi costs about $35500, which is only $158 shy of the amount charged for a similar space in Manhattan, the most luxurious housing market in the world.
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Finally, the UAE’s economy predominantly relies on oil for its sustenance. Any slight fluctuation in oil prices reflects the quality of the lives of the Emiratis (Rahman et al., 2016). To confront this challenge, the government has been diversifying the market by investing in other sectors such as construction and tourism. Despite the considerable success witnessed in the said direction, the country’s economy remains largely dependent on oil. In 2015, about 70% of the nation’s GDP arose directly from oil revenues (Lasrado, 2018). This finding is an indication that the UAE has a long journey before being fully diversified.
Implications of Applying the Concept of TouchPoints to Enhance Customer Satisfaction
This paper has discussed the significance of touchpoints in deriving services to the satisfaction of the UAE’s population. This section explores the implications of applying these concepts as a step toward achieving remarkable customer satisfaction levels. Whereas the government has taken commendable measures pertaining to its national agenda and Vision 2030, some touchpoints can be addressed to facilitate the realization of the happiness goal within the stipulated timeline. Similarly, the UAE government, together with the country’s private sector, has made concerted efforts to drive the use of social media and the Internet in reaching customers.
The results of the above initiatives are already being witnessed. For example, according to a study by Rahman et al. (2016), by 2015, the UAE administration had transferred 96% of all critical government services online to ease their accessibility. Additionally, this country possesses some 31 million social media audiences across various departments (Rahman et al., 2016). This number can be utilized to facilitate rapid correspondence between the government and its population. This way, feedback on policies can be obtained in real-time before making desired changes within acceptable timelines. As stated earlier, the success of government projects is gauged based on the satisfaction levels reported by citizens. Furthermore, studies indicate that more than half of Emiratis depend on social media to express their opinions about the government (Al-Badi, 2014). The reliability of such views can be gauged and used as a tool guiding the improvement of services.
Social media and government websites should be utilized to create a forum for public discussions about various policies before they are implemented. The reason is that people are more likely to own policies and programs, which they take part in developing. Conversely, arbitrary designed policies will not reflect the desires of people. Thus, they miss the goal of promoting happiness. Transparency and accountability are key measures of the success of governments during the 21st century. As such, even seemingly robust and inclusive government policies may fail because the population’s participation was overlooked when they were being designed (Rahman et al., 2016). Therefore, public discussions should be held as a step toward bridging the gap between the UAE’s leadership and the quality of services delivered. Similarly, private organizations can utilize public discussions to obtain feedback that can be used to enhance their population’s experience.
The Internet promotes the delivery of services by eliminating the need for customers to visit physical premises. The UAE government can explore this advancement in technology for the benefit of its people. For example, in the UK, virtually all government services are provided online. Similarly, by deploying mobile apps and functioning websites, the UAE can increase the number of online services. This accomplishment can save the government billions of dirhams used to sustain physical service delivery premises. Additionally, such a move can reduce the service delivery time, thus enhancing customer satisfaction and, ultimately, national happiness levels.
The UAE government is striving to make the nation the happiest place in the world. This paper has argued that relying on touchpoints can promote the attainment of this objective. Major touchpoints for the government include social media and the Internet, policies, and service delivery. Focusing on these elements enables the government to identify and develop key customer interaction areas, thus boosting its population’s experience. Factors such as the shortage of qualified professionals, costly housing, and the oil-based economy limit the government’s capacity to deliver a high Happiness Index. However, the UAE government should focus on the Internet and social media to reduce service delivery times, enhance public participation, and promote transparency regarding government activities.
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