The purpose this study is to developing a framework for customer relationship management (CRM) in the UAE banking industry. The study will focus on the best practice example frameworks from foreign institutions taking into considerations the local conditions in UAE to develop CRM that ensures greater outcomes to the industry players. Both qualitative and quantitative methods (mixed methods approach) were applied to collect the required data for the CRM framework in the UAE banking sector. A sample of 104 participants including 48 branch and IT managers from local banks and 56 branch and IT managers from foreign banks with foreign subsidiaries in UAE were interviewed through the application of a well-designed questionnaire.
The findings indicated that there is no appropriate CRM framework applicable in UAE and most of the local banks are still using the traditional concepts. Moreover, foreign banks utilize the CRM framework developed from their parent banks in their home countries. However, the study also looked into the benefits of the CRM framework based on the outcomes of the foreign banks subsidiaries operating in UAE to come up with the appropriate framework applicable in UAE. The study contributes to the original work in the area of CRM development, which can be practically applied particularly in UAE as well as in the Middle East. In conclusion, the study argues that appropriate CRM framework is necessary for banks especially for customer relations management.
This research aims at developing a framework for customer relationship management (CRM) in the UAE banking industry. It will utilize best practice examples from successful foreign institutions together with local conditions within the UAE. The study will lead to greater CRM outcomes hence higher profitability.
Statement of the problem
CRM adoption in the Middle Eastern banking industry lags behind other global players. Although the UAE is ahead of its counterparts with regard to this parameter, banking institutions still compare poorly to other international banking firms. Currently, some companies have realized the relevance of customer relationship management, but they are yet to experience the benefits of its adoption fully. Additionally, companies are still looking at CRM as a short-term strategy. Few banks are yet to embrace the long terms benefits of investing in CRM. They do not understand the relevance of this investment, so only a fraction of them is tapping its full potential. Some technical hitches are also standing in the way of CRM progress in the UAE banking industry. Some of them lack support from professionals, or they just do not have sufficient applications to compete with international banking institutions (Lambert, 2010).
A need for great customer satisfaction in the banking industry necessitates more research into the area. Furthermore, more banks in the UAE have realized that their e-business platforms are not up to standard. It is for these reasons that the research will attempt to provide a framework for CRM. At the end of the research, banking institutions that want to improve customer satisfaction and increase their commitment to e-business will have mechanisms that they can use to achieve those goals.
Banks in the UAE are yet to make a link between knowledge management or data warehousing and better customer experiences. They need to understand how they can leverage on their interactions with clients as well their inquiries. The products and services offered by the institutions need to reflect these needs, as well. Banks have not exploited their Information Technology (IT) systems fully, as well. Customer relationship management is the means with which they can deal with all these issues proactively (Sin et. al., 2005).
Study questions and hypothesis
The key research hypothesis in the study is “Best practice examples from firms in developed nations can provide UAE banks with a framework for CRM”. The main aim of the research is to develop a framework for CRM in the UAE banking industry. To achieve this aim, one must look at best practice from key institutions in the industry. However, because such examples are rare in the UAE, it will be more effective to use foreign banks to draw lessons from them. Not all the best practices will be suitable to the UAE; consequently, the researcher will also incorporate local situations in the framework to make it practical. This study will, therefore, rely on information that is available on leading banking institutions in the world.
The following are the research questions
- Can UAE banks effectively utilize contact channel management in CRM?
- What is the relevance of enterprise wide management in CRM initiatives, in UAE banking institutions?
- Can banks in the UAE leverage on customer data management to make CRM initiatives profitable?
- How do banks manage their IT systems in order to enhance CRM in the UAE?
- Can banks use their business processes to generate value for the client?
Contact channel management is the process by which institutions control their interactions with customers through different contact channels. Every contact is an opportunity to increase their service outcomes. Consequently, it will be essential to link contact channel management to database management and decision support in CRM. The second research question talks about enterprise wide management. This concept refers to involvement of all stakeholders in a customer relationship management initiative. If a company wants to reap full benefits from CRM, then it must include all stakeholders in the process. Their activities should be customer-centric such that an organizational culture of customer focus develops. Every single process or job function would be viewed as a step towards meeting customers’ needs.
Customer data management is a key component of the third research question. The term refers to the integration, analysis and application of various data sources about the customer to meet their needs. A firm that manages its customer data effectively will notice missing knowledge gaps about customers and thus work towards filling those gaps. It will gain a lot of insight about its buyers and thus establish a more intimate relationship with them. IT is a critical part of the banking sector, and any institutions that want to implement CRM needs to do IT management well. Information technology provides institutions with a unique tool that they can use in order to analyze and track interactions with their clients. Companies have several business processes that they rely on in order to deliver their services. It is essential to treat each process as an asset so as to reap maximum rewards. Because of this, research question five will unravel how organizations can bring out the best in their processes (Liu, 2007).
Significance of the study
In the UAE, research on CRM is still underdeveloped; people need to learn about the different platforms available to them in CRM. Most research tends to focus on case studies in different companies or success stories. Many know little about how the banking industry can best apply customer relationship management. This research will assist banks in the UAE to implement customer relationship management effectively by preparing a framework for the strategy. It will be a compilation of best practice among institutions that have succeeded at the concept. Consequently, others that are yet to report the same results will follow suit.
Upon completion of the research, UAE banking firms will know how to use customer data whenever they get in contact with their clients in order to increase customer satisfaction. The research will help several organizations to develop customer focus. They will know how to create a culture that revolves around the consumer in every stage of their business processes. It is likely that organizations will become highly profitable if they place the customer at the centre of everything they do. The study will also assist banks to know how they can manage their customers’ data in order to learn extra information about them. They will have a clear path concerning how to use business intelligence or management to achieve effective CRM. It will be insightful for many companies to learn how they can use IT to manage customer relationships as this study will focus on IT management in CRM, substantially. At the end of this study, banks in the UAE will learn about how to prioritize processes that relate to clients. They will also know how to increase cost efficiency as well as get the most value from their activities.
Several banking institutions in the UAE still perceive customer relationship management as an interruption in their daily endeavors. They merely collect data about past transactions, some common service preferences and birthdays. Many banks may send unwanted emails to clients and only personalize their services to a minimal extent. As a result, they rarely see any improvements in revenue or profitability. Such approaches illustrate that UAE players misunderstand CRM; it is essential to change this perception. The study will achieve this goal by demonstrating that other institutions from different parts of the world have reaped maximum benefits from CRM. It will guide financial institutions in the UAE on how they can also report similar outcomes.
The study will provide certain deliverable outcomes to the concerned firms. First, they will benefit from an improved customer service. It is likely that if they use the framework they will have efficient call centers. Additionally, they will do cross selling of their services more effectively than before. An effective CRM framework will assist banks in the UAE to secure sales deals at a faster rate. It will assist the institutions to discover new clientele. The study will also simplify marketing processes in these firms. Finally, the research will increase revenues from customers. However, these outcomes may only be possible if firms follow the framework and combine it with their personal situations (Kumar & Kanchu, 2012).
Definition of terms
Perhaps the most critical definition in this research is CRM. Customer relationship management is a philosophy in which the customer is the epicenter of a firm’s culture, processes and activities. The main goal of CRM is to meet customer needs to as to facilitate greater profitability. Unlike what some small organizations have assumed, CRM is not a software product and neither is it a fancy way of increasing sales. CRM requires a paradigm shift in an organization away from its local processes or leaders to its clients. Such firms must continuously discover new ways of satisfying client needs.
Front office CRM is also another term that one will encounter in the field of CRM; operational CRM is another way of describing the term. These are the areas where a bank makes contact with its clients directly. Front office CRM may encompass emails, websites and branch transactions in the banking industry. Not all banks use their contacts to enhance CRM, but it is a unique opportunity to do so. Typical front office operations include call centers, emails, direct sales, web access or use of the banking services.
Back office CRM is the analytical dimension of CRM. It entails making sense of front office operations by integrating customer information and establishing new ways of satisfying the consumer. This can be done through the use of business intelligence tools. IT is a critical part of this process because it is the means with which firms integrate and analyze information about the customer. The aim of back office CRM is to ensure that a company creates a full picture of its clients. The less the gaps it has about its clients, the more far-reaching its strategic CRM (Afsaret. al., 2010).
CRM vendors are those organizations that offer software packages to institutions in order to facilitate customer relationship management. Key players include Sichel and SAP. The latter is a firm that offers CRM solutions for large and small organizations. Additionally Sichel is a software company managed by Oracle. It specializes in on-demand software services.
Limitations of the study
This research will not be a case study analysis of current UAE banking practices. As mentioned earlier, insufficient information exists concerning CRM in UAE banking; therefore, the study will focus on best practices from successful foreign banks. It will not evaluate local situations as these are not sufficient to offer a comprehensive CRM framework.
The study will not be a magic bullet in CRM; it will only provide structures that must be combined with the values and goals in a bank. Furthermore, the capabilities and resources available to an institution will determine how successful outcomes will be. Therefore, financial bodies cannot implement the recommendations without reflecting on external and internal weaknesses (Kundi. and Shah, 2009).
Most of the material in the industry will not come from primary data collected from selected institutions. This paper will depend on publically – available information about CRM practices in these foreign banks. Therefore, banks in UAE will need to exercise caution when considering this approach as the problems of relying on secondary research will affect outcomes. Weaknesses and assumptions in their analyses will also change reports in the analysis.
The research will only select best practices from institutions; it will not focus on trends in the CRM industry. If too much emphasis goes to emerging trends, then banks in the UAE will not learn about the fundamentals of the practice that got those firms to their successful positions in the first place. Furthermore, most trends come and go, yet the point of this study is to dwell on a framework that will work for UAE banks regardless of the time they choose to implement it. Trends also depend on the external environment in which a firm operates. For instance, some banks in the US may need to notify clients if their personal information goes through a security breach because of the California Information Practice Act. Such a measure would not make sense for UAE firms. Therefore, only general experiences will apply in this analysis.
This research will also not set measurable outcomes that organizations can hope to achieve if they use the framework. For instance, firms can state that customer retention rates will increase by 10% or operating costs will reduce by 15%. Customer relationship management is a long term process that requires continual improvement and commitment to the strategy. As a result, the study will not promise organizations certain percentages after a time range (Shibu. 2011).
Sometimes some institutions may choose to outsource their CRM processes to third party vendors. This study will not focus on such institutions as they may have their own approach to CRM. It will only deal with those individuals that take a personal approach to the plan.
The suggestions in this research will only be applicable to firms in the United Arab Emirates. As mentioned earlier, local factors in the UAE will be in this framework. The Middle Eastern region has unique needs with regard to its level of CRM. Therefore, other non-UAE countries may have to incorporate their respective local situations into the framework before applying it to their issues.
Over the years, the banking industry has evolved to adapt to changes brought about by technological advances. The internet provided one such opportunity for the banking industry to develop e-commerce. Customers are increasingly demanding for managed relationships. E-commerce has driven the need for virtual banking that is dynamic, allowing customers to carry out transactions anywhere, anytime. Currently, competition has increased such that banks cannot rely on traditional methods to maintain the loyalty of the customers. This prompted the banking industry to come up with a customer-oriented strategy in order to retain and gain more customers. Customer relationship management (CRM) is the model that was adopted to manage the bank’s interaction with its customers. It makes use of technology to organize, automate and synchronize sales, marketing, customer service and technical support (Afsar, Rehman & Bengar, 2010).
Generally, the banking industry in the Middle East lags behind its contemporaries worldwide in the adoption of CRM. However, the banking industry in the United Arab Emirates does fairly well in CRM compared to other Middle East countries but poorly in comparison to other international banking firms. The banking industry in the UAE has realized the importance of customer relationship management even though it is yet to experience the long-term benefits of investing in the strategy. This is brought about because the relevance of CRM is not fully understood and appreciated. There are several factors that impede the adoption of CRM in the banking industry but the major reasons being the lack of professionals to implement the strategy and the insufficiency of applications to compete with international banking institutions. In order to attain international standards, the UAE banking sector has realized the need for greater customer satisfaction. Implementing CRM requires the use of technology yet the major problem with the UAE banking sector is that their e-commerce platforms are not up to standard. This necessitates the provision of a framework with which customer relationship management can be implemented (Sin, Tse & Yim, 2005).
According to studies carried out to find out about customer relationship management, there is a general agreement that banks in the UAE are yet to make a link between information/data management and better customer experiences. It is imperative that the major players in the banking industry understand how they can take full advantage of the interactions with their clients and their inquiries. The products and services offered by the banks need to reflect these needs as well as exploiting their information technology systems fully. Customer relationship management (CRM) enhances customer contentment in addition to the organization revenues. CRM achieve these through reorganization of operations through the application of a powerful technology platform. The process enables banking institutions to alter their attention to customer-oriented away from the traditional product-oriented institutions. CRM is the driving force that enables delineation of customers and increases the value attached to customers. Proper implantation of CRM has the potential to change a customer’s relationship with an institution, thereby gaining customer loyalty (Afsar, Rehman & Bengar).
CRM is one of the most important applications of e-commerce and is behind the success of institutions that implement it. Developing a framework for its implementation in UAE banks would have to borrow from best practice examples from firms in the international scene that have a successful CRM program. CRM involves an enterprise-wide marketing strategy, technology platform and a relationship management. Great emphasis is placed on the importance of the integration of contact channels, processes, IT management, customer data management and enterprise wide management.
The starting point of CRM is contacting customers through various media in order to provide services. An enterprise-wide database will then collects and integrate the customer data from the office system. The enterprise uses the data from the database to make an analysis that translates into meaningful information for improving customer relationships. All these are made possible via IT management, which enables the activities in the above contents to function efficiently (Kundi & Shah, 2009). Developing a CRM framework therefore entails:
Contact channel management
Every time a customer approaches a bank, the bank should use this contact as a chance to learn more about the customer. It is an opportunity for the bank to increase their service outcomes. The bank will contact the customer with the aim of selling and providing its services and these activities are recorded as customer data in the office system, awaiting integration. If UAE banks were to adopt CRM, then contact channel management would provide a decision support system to select the best market access on suitability, distribution structure and integration of contact channels. Bank contact channels can take the form of ATM services, internet banking, a 24-hour call center or global banking services and distributed bank branches to connect to their customers.there is need for banks to improve the security and convenience of contact channels.
Banks should find a friendly way for customers to connect with their business by creating channels that reflect the customer’s preferences (Shibu, 2011). The UAE banks can consider setting up or upgrading already existing channels through value –added services. Keeping these channels restricted will help boost customer confidence in keeping their particulars safe. The most successful international firms have developed restricted access contact channels. This helps in reflecting the time and place that the customer would wish to connect with the bank from a streamlined process perspective. Contact channels should be integrated from a customer’s point of view. They should be built using standard operating procedures to promote consistency in processing customer data and all other channels.The more the consistency, the more the information that can be shared amongst various channels creating more business resources to be used in customer service delivery. An example of a contact channel is the call Centre, which reduces operating expenses for the bank while providing services to the bank customers (Kundi & Shah, 2009).
This concept refers to involvement of all stakeholders in a CRM initiative. A successful and profitable CRM initiative always begins with a business strategy that serves to drive change, especially a customer-oriented culture within the company. All the bank employees can contribute to the improvement of customer behavior, satisfaction and profitability. The bank office systems should be integrated from the customer’s point of view. The bank can start by identifying its end customers, redesigning the process from the customer’s point of view and making continuous improvements based on customer feedback. This approach helps move the bank from a product-oriented to a customer-oriented institution. A successful CRM strategy in terms of enterprise-wide management puts the benefits of the customer first. It highly values customer intimacy. From the enterprise-wide management, banks can set up business processes from the customer’s perspective as well as integrating the bank’s systems and contact channels (Kumar & Kanchu, 2012). Integrating its contact channels means that the bank has to merge its organizational goals, rules and objectives into being customer-oriented.
Enterprise-wide management is based on customer intimacy, integration of bank systems and redesigning the business processes. Banks in the UAE need to shift from mere operational excellence or product-orientation. Instead, customer data management should be used for the benefit of every bank employee to use the integrated data and consistent information. Initially, banks and other businesses designed processes that focused on the bank rather than the customers. This approach did improve efficiency but did not increase profitability.
The competition that is rife in the banking industry puts forth the situation that in order for UAE banks to reap from profitability, they need to design business processes based on the view of customers. This will definitely cause an increase in transactions, thus increase profitability. The bank system is divided into front office and back office systems. The customers connect with the bank at the front office. The purpose of the front office is supposed to be spread to various departmental automations including sales and marketing and customer services. Customer data is captured at the front office and integrated at the back office. It is very important for banks to integrate the activities of the two office systems, lack of which may cause problems of mismatch or inconsistency that will ultimately lead to losses from failure of the bank to retain its customers.
Customer data management
In order to understand and manage customer relationships then proper integration of customer data is a must. After the bank has gathered customer data, it has to make a decision on what it wants to do with that data to enable them project on future customer needs. The data management platform comes across as the bank’s most valuable asset. It will enable the bank to access data that will help them know more about the customer and to gain new insight into the customer through a variety of analytical methods (Lambert, 2010). Customer data management helps in supporting business operations, business intelligence and business management. In order for banks to improve the quality of relationships they have with their customers, the banks must recognize the preferences and behaviors of different customers and strive to satisfy the needs of each individual. This is possible by integrating the interactive data from the database in such a way as to support customer analysis and decision-making.
A proactive database allows customer data to be upgraded automatically. The banks should then establish criteria and systems to categorize customers, interpret differences among them and then offer personalized services. Banks need to set up a system of collecting and integrating customer data, which assists of enterprise-wide management by analyzing the situation precisely and making the best decision as regards the customer. Analysis of the customer data includes evaluating the actual and potential value of customers. It helps in evaluating customer loyalty by estimating the degree of customer satisfaction with their services (Shibu, 2011). From the analysis, the bank can identify their target customers and actually calculate the contribution of each customer.
The internet has made it possible for all services in the banking industry to be managed by IT applications. A proper CRM strategy requires that the bank invest in the most updated versions of IT infrastructure and software to enable in the recording, tracking and analysis of customer interactions (Liu, 2007). IT management is central in the implementation of contact channels, enterprise and customer data management.e-commerce has taken advantage of the internet to deliver services to customers. IT helps in the provision of an enterprise-wide view and customer value-focused information systems. CRM puts IT at the center of its operational, analytical and collaborative support systems. IT complements all the processes involved in customer interactions.
The entire CRM strategy is founded on effective IT management, customer data management and enterprise-wide management. The Application of IT in the bank processes increases asset efficiency. IT software is used to integrate all processes and application systems in the bank. Contact channel management requires IT applications. Examples of IT related contact channels include call centers, interactive voice response (IVR), computer telephony integration (CTI) which all help to connect computers, telephones, fax lines and websites. IT is related to customer data management in that the collection, integration and analysis of customer data are founded upon database technology (Lambert, 2010). Enterprise-wide management is possible via IT by integrating messages between the front and back office systems by running appropriate programs.
Bank operations consist of processes that determine the nature of the bank’s capabilities towards service delivery to its customers. These processes are usually a combination of software that provides all customer interactions over the internet, linking people and providing exceptional handling of the situations that make or break customer relationship with the bank (Liu, 2007). Several institutions have developed unique processes that have come to be synonymous to their service delivery. The banks in the UAE therefore need to come up with processes aimed at unique service delivery to their customers and ensure that they generate value apart from being cost effective.
The UAE banking industry has the opportunity to develop a customer relationship management strategy that is at par with international standards. The excellence of its institutions alone will not drive forward the profitability of the banking industry. There needs to be a deeper understanding of the changing dynamics and the necessary steps taken to counter them. The world today is moving towards a global village and it is more common for institutions to enter the virtual world. As a result of the growing competition, institutions in all sectors are shifting from product to service delivery with focus on customer service. Banks in the UAE do not have comprehensive implementation of customer relationship management programs. This has been mainly attributed to lack of professionals to implement CRM in the institutions, insufficient applications and outdated e-commerce platforms that cannot be supported by current technology. The UAE banking industry has realized the value of customer relationships and as such has strived to implement customer relationship management.
The five main concepts through which a CRM framework can be developed include contact channels, enterprise-wide management, customer data management, IT management and processes. This framework borrows from the banking industry best practices so that there can be relevance in their application to the banking industry in UAE. To embrace CRM, the banking industry has to shift its focus from a product-oriented to a customer-oriented view. Implementing CRM in the banking industry in the UAE will require that banks maximize on their contact with customers in order to gather adequate information. This information is relevant in getting to know more about the customer. Customer management will increase the bank’s profitability by eliminating inconsistencies in customer data. The banking industry has to create a culture of customer service. A successful CRM strategy will lead to attracting and retaining loyal customers. At the end of the day, the UAE banks will be able to compete with other international firms that have gained a good reputation in offering efficient and unique customer service.
This section of the study provides the method of gathering the required information to answer research questions and hypothesis. Howe and Eisenhardt noted that methodology must be “judged by how well it informs research purposes, more than how well it matches a set of conventions” (Howe and Eisenhardt, 1990) at the end of data analysis. Therefore, the aim of the research methodology is to provide data that respond to the research issues, present logical background assumptions, and to ensure that techniques used account for the credibility of the study results.
A well-developed research should provide a theoretical frame, scientific design, measurement methods that show reliability and validity, apply appropriate statistical methods of analysis, and generalize findings so that other researchers can borrow and use the same techniques in other studies. Hence, theoretical background, clear aims, research methods, confidence in conclusions, and comprehensible implications are useful and show that research meets scientific standards.
There are many methods of data collection in a study. This research used both qualitative and quantitative methods (mixed methods approach) to collect the required data for the CRM framework in the UAE banking sector. Qualitative research accounted for non-numerical factors of banks’ views about CRM usages for various purposes. Thus, this approach allowed the researcher to describe and interpret data for the study. On the other hand, quantitative study accounted for numerical data from quantitative research elements (Trochim, 2006).
The researcher used a mixed method approach in order to get the following advantages. First, the researcher wanted to establish validity through triangulation. Triangulation entails substantiation of study findings. For instance, the researcher used mixed methods approach in order to assess whether the best practice examples from firms in developed nations can provide UAE banks with a framework for CRM. Second, the researcher wanted to develop research validity and interpretability. Third, mixed methods approach allowed the researcher to apply results from both approaches in order to improve and inform the other approaches. For instance, quantitative study results were useful in the qualitative study in which the research wanted to provide in-depth accounts of senior executives’ perceptions about CRM in the UAE banking sector. Fourth, mixed methods approach was critical for obtaining the required depth in research. The researcher was able to understand banking CRM insights during research because of using qualitative method, which allowed her to change the study in order to show usages of CRM in the UAE banking sector. Such new insights are difficult to plan in the study during research design because they emerge at the time of data collection. Lastly, mixed methods approach provided an opportunity for the researcher to develop the scope of the study. For instance, the researcher applied qualitative approach as a means of assessing decision-making processes among senior banking executives when considering CRM tools, as well as quantitative approach in order to explore outcomes of their decisions.
This was a descriptive study with a mixed methods approach. The researcher described and explored banking institutions and their perceptions about CRM with the aim of understanding the best CRM framework for the UAE banking sector. The researcher used both closed-ended questions and open-ended questions in order to collect data that could provide adequate responses for the study hypothesis and research questions.
The research relied on random sampling. The sample was adequate to allow the researcher to generalize the results to other banks in other locations within the UAE. The researcher used both “quantitative and qualitative approaches in the study” (Bazeley, 2002). A large sample allowed the investigator to conduct a detailed analysis of collected data (Bazeley, 2002). Bazeley notes that such analyses are possible because of computer programs, which can analyze data from both qualitative and quantitative respondents. Random sampling allowed the researcher to collect data from the representatives of the samples. All samples had equal chances of participating in the survey. This method also provided the researcher with the ease of finding respondents. This study was unbiased random selection of the study samples. Therefore, it provided good opportunities for the researcher to draw a generalized conclusion from the study. The aim of the researcher was to be able to draw a conclusion that reflected the study subjects (Wolcott, 1994).
Specifically, sampling involved the use a simple random sample. The researcher chose bank executives (branch managers and IT managers) from a large set. She chose every research participant randomly through chance. This implies that all members of the targeted population had the same chances of being chosen in the sampling process. This ensured that the research process was not biased. Thus, the study was objective.
This is the basic form of research sampling, which guaranteed that every branch manager and IT manager in all branches of various banks in the UAE had the same chances of participating in the study. The researcher did the sampling without replacement. In other words, no branch manager or IT manager of the same bank was chosen more than once. However, the approach still met conditions for exchangeability because of the small number of samples.
The researcher wanted to make sure that she had unbiased sample through random selection of research participants. This approach ensured that the sample represented all banking population of UAE. However, the researcher could not guarantee that the sample was perfect and free of errors. Rather, it allowed the researcher to draw a valid conclusion about the study sample.
Although this was the simplest form of random sampling method, it needed a complete list of all banks and their branches in the UAE. This was not possible because of several branches for every bank. Thus, numbers of branches were many for the researcher to construct.
This method was free of mistakes in identification of branches and their managers. The researcher did not need prior knowledge about branch managers and IT managers of all banks. Thus, it was the best method to conduct the study because the updated list of banks and their branches was not available. Moreover, data collection was appropriate for the study because of random distribution of study items.
The researcher noted that there were 52 banks in the UAE. This number included 24 local banks and 28 foreign banks. Every bank provided one branch manager and one IT manager. Thus, there were 104 participants in the research.
The researcher used open-ended questionnaires to collect data from research participants. Questionnaires were appropriate for this study because they assisted the researcher to collect data on opinions and facts about CRM application in the UAE banking sector. The researcher had to develop valid and reliable questionnaires for the study.
The researcher examined the study objectives, research hypothesis, and research questions. She identified research participants as bank branch managers and IT managers. Initially, the researcher conducted literature review on the use of CRM in UAE and other parts of the world among developed banks. This was necessary for developing a thorough understanding of CRM application in the UAE banking sector.
The researcher developed questions for the study about developing the appropriate framework for CRM in the UAE banking sector. This step involved understanding literature review and theoretical concepts of the study. The researcher concluded that the CRM in UAE was not well-developed. Thus, it was necessary to understand how foreign banks used CRM and adopted a similar approach within the context of UAE. The researcher also linked the research questions with the study objectives.
Questionnaires informed the order of questions and data analysis techniques for data collected. The researcher had to establish the relationship between research measurement instruments and the suitable method of data analysis. The researcher had to select an appropriate technique for confirming the research hypothesis and responding to the study questions. Descriptive statistics provided the basic information about the collected information for the study.
Descriptive statistics was perfect for analyzing collected data. The researcher presented simple summaries regarding the use of CRM among local banks on the UAE. With other graphical elements, descriptive statistics presented a good basis for analysis of quantitative data in the study.
The researcher used descriptive statistics to present results from data analysis. This presented data in a manageable form, which many readers could understand. This ensured that the study had figures and charts.
The researcher applied content analysis in all study questions, which had elaborate description of study accounts and analytical responses. These were mainly open-ended questions, which sought to provide in-depth accounts of CRM usages in the UAE banking sector. Patton referred to content analysis as any qualitative data reduction and sense-making effort that takes a volume of qualitative material and attempts to identify core consistencies and meanings…often called patterns or themes” (Patton, 2002, p. 453).
The researcher then established the validity of the research instruments.
She then reviewed the instruments with a panel of experts on the field of study and conducted a pretest. The researcher then ensured that the questionnaire was valid, i.e., the questionnaire “measured what it was intended to measure” (Norland, 1990). The instrument also represented the study content, was appropriate for various participants, and comprehensive to collect adequate information for the study.
The researcher also obtained approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) and ensured that the study met all ethical standards of study, which involved the use of human participants. She then conducted a test with different participants and made changes to questionnaire based on the test results.
The researcher used pilot test results to determine reliability of the research questionnaires. This aimed at ensuring that the questionnaire was consistent with what it was designed to measure. Overall, the researcher followed “appropriate and systematic procedures in questionnaire development, testing, and evaluation to avoid undermining the quality and utilization of data” (Esposito, 2002).
The researcher collected primary data to meet the needs of her specific research questions and hypothesis. Thus, she did not use secondary data in the analysis. The researcher collected primary data in order to identify usages of CRM systems among banks in UAE with aim of determining whether local UAE banks could borrow best practices in foreign banks. Collected data were not available from other sources.
Design and statistical procedure
Branch managers and IT managers of the bank took part in the study. The researcher interviewed them in order to obtain in-depth information concerning the use of CRM platforms in their banks. The aim was to determine the purpose, banks’ strategies, perceptions, benefits, and impacts of implementing the CRM in their operation systems.
The researcher presented both open-ended and closed ended questionnaires for the study. This was to show how bank managers and IT managers interacted with the CRM and what other members of perceived as the important roles of CRM in their roles. The researcher also included Likert scale for research participants to rate their perceptions about CRM applications in their banks. IT managers and branch managers also had to show whether they understood the concept of CRM, it advantages, challenges, and any other emerging practices and technology trends in the banking sector with regard to technology within the UAE and the globe.
The major research questions sought to show how UAE banks could rely on CRM for competitive advantages. This implied that such banks must also identify critical success factors for their CRM platforms. The researcher applied content analysis in order to understand what IT managers and branch managers considered advantages and critical success factors for their banks when deploying CRM platform. This was the best approach for analyzing qualitative data obtained from the interview. Content analysis involved conventional, directed, and summative methods, which aimed at interpreting results of the study and adhering to naturalistic paradigm of qualitative elements of the research design. The researcher had to maintain trustworthiness of the data during coding of themes. She derived themes directly from the collected data. As a result, the researcher was able to account for research hypothesis and research questions based on data analysis techniques used.
The next stage involved the plan for data analysis. The researcher also had to decide on what to do with the collected information after analysis. The researcher used descriptive statistics in order to provide study results for quantitative data. She carefully considered descriptive statistics based on the study instrument developed during the research design. However, this was not common in the data gathered.
The researcher noted that qualitative data were suitable for content analysis by identifying themes, which were common based on responses from respondents. The researcher used coding method to identify themes. Thus, themes were the important foundation on which the researcher derived the CRM framework for the UAE banks. The researcher summarized and presented results of the study to research supervisor for review and comments.
Research efforts provided valuable information, which UAE banks could use to improve their banking operations, increase customer service, decision-making within the bank, and marketing and sales activities, and reporting. The study documented banking practices with regard to CRM in the UAE and the best practices in the world. The UAE banking sector should adopt CRM platforms because of benefits they provide to the business and customers. Thus, banks can act on facts, data, and not the industry speculations. Branch managers and IT managers must prove that the CRM platform can have positive contributions to the bank if adopted because they have high initial costs.
The researcher provided the CRM banking platform, which the UAE banking sector could adopt in order to enhance business operations, data storage, customer service, decision-making processes, sales and marketing. The researcher believed that the CRM platform could solve the challenge in adoption of CRM in the UAE banking sector.
The researcher based results of the study on research questions. There were 104 participants from all banks in the UAE. About 48 participants were from local banks while 56 participants came from foreign banks with branches in the UAE. Figure 1 indicates the respondents profiling on the type of bank they belong, whether foreign based or local based.
Most branch and IT managers noted that many UAE banks were mainly using traditional banking concepts. In fact, over 82% of the respondents agreed that most of their institutions are still utilizing the traditional banking concepts as opposed to new modern concepts such as the CRM. Figure 2 show the respondents profiling on the concepts used by banks in UAE.
However, in the beginning of 2008, intense competition forced banks to seek for alternative methods of improving customer service. As a result, many banks turned to automated CRM. Out of 104 participants, 78 participants agreed that their banks are using CRM in managing their clients while 12 respondents did not agree. Eight respondents said they were not sure while six did not know whether their banks were using CRM. Figure 3 indicates how the participants respondnent to the application of CRM in their respective banks.
However, when the participants who agreed the application of CRM were asked whether the customer relations management framework they are applying are from local developers or from major foreign companies, All respondents noted that their banks were using CRM from major foreign companies. On the same not, 98 participants agreed that there was a need for differentiation and improvement of the bank image through improved customer service. However, the rest of the participants did not agree.
Similarly, 98 branch and IT managers noted that they needed to invest in CRM solutions for strategic purposes with the aim of improving customer service. Figure 4 indicates how the participants responded to the differentiation and the need to invest in CRM. Moreover, when the participants were asked whether their bank current policies support customer relations management strategies, 78 agreed while 12 did not agree. However, the respondents who were not sure and totally did not know were equal in number. The result reflected the number of participants who agreed that their banks use CRM. In other words, those banks with CRM supportive policies apply CRM strategies.
The results indicate that most of the banks are applying the CRM systems. However, the way CRM platforms and the appropriate framework are still haphazard. The proof can be observed on the results of the subsequent responses. Thus, majorities of UAE banks consider CRM platforms as applications for achieving customer-oriented services throughout the sector. Specifically, four major themes emerged in the study.
First, the UAE banking sector recognizes the importance of CRM platforms to their businesses. In fact, 89 respondents agreed that their banks top management recognizes the importance of CRM platforms in the general business operations while the rest of the respondents were either not sure or did not know. However, the banks’ managements face several challenges. As can be observed, figure 5 shows the results of the participants’ responses to the recognition of the importance of the CRM to the banks business processes.
Branch and IT managers also cited a myriad of challenges in their attempts to adopt CRM platforms for strategic purposes. For instance, banks in the UAE face stiff price wars, challenges of high operating costs and the need to reduce them, fragmented customer bases, aligning Sharia requirements with CRM platforms and various channels of communications. As a result, the adoption of robust CRM platforms in most banks has been a slow process. The results indicate that almost 90% of the respondents strongly agree that challenges exist and are obstacles to the adoption and implementation of CRM. As indicated in figure 6, 94 respondents strongly agree, five agree while one respondent remains neutral. Among the challenges, fragmented customer base and increased cost of implementation were cited as the most serious problems. Figure 7 indicates the way participants responded to the kind of challenges faced by UAE banks in their adoption and implementation of CRM.
Second, study results showed a peculiar trend among local banks of the UAE. Many local banks in the UAE adopted CRM platform mostly in single departments. Most of the respondents explain that the customer care department implements the CRM strategies. In addition, the customer care department utilizes the CRM platform majorly at the front office. In fact, most branch managers and IT managers noted that banks used CRM platforms for front-end purposes, but did not serve major roles in the bank. Further, the results indicate that most usages came from individuals departments. However, the practice is different from foreign banks. Most of the respondents from the foreign-based banks indicate that such banks used their CRM platforms across the entire bank i.e., the CRM application acts as an enterprise-wide solution.
Third, banks did not have any method of measuring how they used CRM platforms in their departments and entire bank. As a result, it was difficult to determine effective utilization of CRM in their departments. The UAE banks have failed to capture customer information in their CRM platforms. With the myriad of challenges in the banking sector, it is necessary for banks to understand their CRM platforms, contributions, and challenges. This would allow banks to understand characteristics and transaction patterns of their customers. Banks can only provide effective services to customers when they understand the specific needs of their clients. This can only take place when UAE banks adopt systems, which can provide required information for decision-making purposes on improving customer services.
Fourth, the survey results also showed that most local banks in the UAE had not been able to understand segmented nature of their customers. However, these banks believed that solutions to such challenges were in adoption of CRM platforms for managing customers across the entire bank. Thus, branch managers and IT managers believe that adoption of CRM platforms with the enterprise-wide focus is important for strategic customer management.
From the survey, many local UAE banks used their CRM platforms for front-end roles only. Moreover, they also noted that customer issues were matters of customer service departments. This indicates the banking system of the UAE still relies on the traditional approach to banking and customer management. The IT departments have not developed flexible systems, which can address customer management across the entire bank. Thus, every business unit had its own platform or method of managing its customers. Flexibility in the CRM system can allow a bank to improve its customer management and operational efficiency across the whole bank. Such systems must align front-end and back end operations of a bank so that matters relating to customer service, characteristics, customer attrition rates, employee productivity, and suitability of CRM for the bank can be clear. This may aid in justifying the use of CRM and any investments on the same.
Some banks have fully adopted CRM systems in their operations and customer management. Such banks have reported significance changes, which indicate that UAE banks can effectively utilize contact channel management in CRM, leverage on customer data management to make CRM initiatives profitable, and use their business processes to generate value for the client. In addition, such positive outcomes from banks show that CRM systems are relevant in the enterprise wide management of UAE banking institutions. However, the challenge still lies in the IT department. The department has not been able to link front-end and back end operations and connect the entire bank to a single CRM application. Moreover, many employees lack adequate training on the importance of such systems in the bank and their positive contributions.
Banks with CRM systems and automated business processes have noted improvements in their operational efficiency and customer management. They were also able to comply with Sharia banking regulations without challenges.
First, many banks no longer use several applications to respond to customer queries. Such banks have developed contact centers, which log customers’ queries. As a result, they provide responses fast and accurately. Moreover, customers do not have to make several calls across different departments. Second, the system has improved account-opening processes because account-opening officers only use a single application for account opening purposes. Third, the system has simplified compliance with the Sharia banking laws. This implies that documentation and other processes of the bank must pass through the same system with standard requirements. This ensures that all employees follow bank procedures when dealing with customers. Fourth, banks have used customer data to improve understanding of tendencies, characteristics, and nature of transactions among their customers. Some banks analyze such data and target specific groups with new products. Finally, customers have recorded improved satisfaction among customers because CRM applications improve customer service.
Discussion, Recommendations and Conclusion
The study findings indicate that UAE banks are yet to adopt fully the CRM systems in both short-term and long-term management strategies. The findings are in accordance with the other studies carried out to examine about the customer relationship management. In essence, there is a general agreement that banks in the UAE are yet to make a link between information management and better customer experiences. The study also indicates lack of understanding of the CRM systems within the UAE banking sector and that has been the major cause of its poor adoption. Therefore, it is essential that banks understand how they can increase their competencies through the application of CRM systems. In other words, banks should take full advantage of the manner in which they interact with their clients and the way they handle their inquiries. The customer interactions and the handling of their inquiries form the basis of customer relationship management.
CRM begins from the point where the customers are contacted through the communication channels of the company in order to provide the needed services. In other words, the starting point of CRM is getting in touch with customers through a range of banking communication channels in order to provide services that is needed by the clients. In essence, communication is critical in the customers’ relations management. The customer information are then collected and fed on the enterprise-wide database. The enterprise-wide database integrates the client’s information from the office systems and uses the statistics from the database to make an analysis that translates into meaningful information for improving customer relationships. The processes of collection, integration and analysis are made possible via appropriate IT management platform, which enables the activities of the enterprise-wide database systems to function efficiently.
Further, the adoption of CRM within the Middle Eastern banking sector has been found to be lagging behind other global players. UAE is ahead of its equivalent countries in connection with this consideration. However, banking institutions within UAE still compare poorly to other international banking firms. Moreover, local banks are yet to adopt the CRM in their management strategies. Clearly, most of the banks in UAE have comprehended the significance of customer relationship management, but they are yet to experience the benefits of its full adoption.
In addition, it is vivid from the study that most banks are still considering customer relationship management as part of their short-term strategy. Only few banks that have put in place long-term measures that enhance adoption of CRM are experiencing some benefits. However, they are yet to embrace the long-terms benefits of investing in CRM. In essence majority of banks particularly the local do not understand the relevance of this investment leaving only a fraction tapping the full potential customer relationship management. Moreover, the implementation of CRM has experienced obstacles ranging from deficiencies in the CRM knowledge to lack of a common framework. In other words, some technical hitches are standing in the way of CRM implementation and growth in the UAE banking industry. As indicated, most of banks lack professional support as well as insufficient applications to compete with international banking institutions.
According to the study findings, banks within UAE that have fully adopted CRM systems and possess automated business processes have experienced astronomical improvements in their operational efficiency and customer management. The CRM systems and the increased efficiency have resulted into increased customer satisfaction, which in effect have augmented the number of clients. In other words, the CRM systems have enhanced the competitiveness of these banks. Besides, the automation of the business processes together with the adoption of CRM systems is one of the major competencies that these banks have applied to increase their competitive advantage. Moreover, these banks have also applied these competencies to comply with Sharia banking regulations without challenges.
Moreover, the study findings indicate that most correspondents agree that the UAE banks can borrow a framework for CRM from developed nations. However, before such a framework can be implemented, it must be aligned with local conditions and requirements. In other words, local challenges must be considered while developing a framework that is applicable to the UAE conditions. Another important emerging issue is that the implementation of CRM varies with the type of banks. UAE local banks have been found to be lagging behind foreign-based banks in their CRM implementation programs.
The appropriate CRM Framework
From the study findings, the researcher developed a framework for CRM in the UAE banking industry. The researcher highlights important assumptions and needs, which the study revealed. In addition, it shows how the UAE banking sector can use CRM applications for operational efficiency, customer satisfaction, and improved profitability for the whole. The framework is an enterprise-wide application, which eliminates traditional practices or platforms driven by a single department.
The CRM Framework can only make sense to the banking sector if banks deploy and improve upon it for efficiency. The fundamental concerns for banks should be creating prerequisite for CRM adoption, identifying its critical success factors, and evaluating its consequences against business targets. These concepts require trained people, effective management of processes, and technology so that banks can realize the value of CRM applications. This is an integrated and automated system that aims to enhance customer service, improve relationship management, and customer retention for the bank. Thus, the focus of the CRM framework is the customer. Banks, which implement the framework successfully, would realize the benefits of CRM. These may include customer retention and profitability.
CRM implementation is critical for any banking institution. Many cases of CRM implementation may fail due to poor implementation strategies, lack of support and knowledge from employees, and organizational culture. The UAE banking institutions must also adopt strategies for evaluating performance of CRM applications. This will show whether the application has met its objectives.
Employees, management of processes, and effective technologies are the defining aspects of any CRM application in the banking sector. These three elements can define the failure or success of any CRM application in the UAE banking institutions. Thus, banks must have the right team, processes, and technology for implementation to ensure that CRM applications achieve their objectives. Banks must also realize that implementation of the CRM application is a long-term project in which they must identify critical factors for success. Branch managers and IT managers agree that the UAE banks can adopt a framework for CRM from developed nations, but they must align it with local conditions and requirements.
Banking institutions that have effectively adopted and implemented the CRM programs have succeeded. CRM systems are one of the most imperative functions of banking information technologies and are cited to be behind the success of institutions with full implementation strategies. Therefore, coming up with frameworks that support its implementation particularly within UAE banks are critical. However, appropriate framework would have to borrow from banks with the best practice examples in the international scene. In other words, the framework should be based on the best practices of banking institutions that have successfully implemented CRM program. While developing the framework, it should be understood that CRM involves an enterprise-wide marketing strategy, technology platform and a relationship management. Most importantly, increased emphasis should be put on the consequences of integrating contact channels, operations processes, and management of information systems, customer data management as well as enterprise-wide management.
In addition, UAE banks should be in a position to exploit fully their information technology to offer products and services that reflect the needs of clients. The fact is Customer Relationship Management (CRM) should be understood as a process that increase clients’ satisfaction and boost revenues. The CRM attain these objectives through streamlining operation processes on a powerful technology platform that enables the banking institutions to shift their focus from service or product-oriented to customer-oriented institutions. Essentially, banking managers should understand that CRM is the driving force that enables delineation of customers and increases the value attached to products and services meant for the clients’ satisfaction. Moreover, UAE banks, both local and foreign based should acknowledge that proper implementation of CRM systems has increased prospective of changing the relationship clients have with the institutions, which in effect enables the organization gain the needed loyalty of the customers.
Thus, banks within UAE should have the right team with required competence and skills, operations processes as well as information technology platform for appropriate CRM implementation. The requirements ensure that CRM applications attain the set objectives. UAE banks should also acknowledge the fact that implementation of the CRM application is a long-term project in which they must identify critical factors for success.
The main aim of this particular study was to come up with a CRM framework that would be applied by the banks and banking industry in UAE. Even though the studies indicate that the UAE banking industry lack appropriate CRM framework, majority of banks have come up with various methods of managing customer relations and have appreciated the need to have a common customers relations management structure that is applicable to all banks particularly the local banks within the United Arabs Emirates.
Therefore, CRM implementation is critical for any banking institution particularly local banks operating in UAE. However, in most cases, CRM implementation may be unsuccessful because of poor execution approaches, the need for organizational support and deficiency of CRM knowledge from employees as well as the wider organizational culture. The obstacles are applicable in general considerations. Nevertheless, there is need to find out the CRM implementation obstacles that are specific to the UAE banking industry.
According to the study findings, the UAE banking industry faces challenges in their CRM implementation including stiff price wars, high operating costs as well as the need to cut such costs, fragmented customer bases, aligning Sharia requirements with CRM platforms and various channels of communications. Such challenges need to be addressed to enable banks adopt and have full benefits of the CRM systems. Most importantly, the UAE banking institutions must also adopt strategies for evaluating performance of CRM applications. Such plans will demonstrate whether the application of CRM systems as well as the framework has attained the required objectives.
Most significantly, employees, management of processes, and effective technologies are critical aspects that define the implementation processes of CRM applications in the banking sector. In other words, the three aspects are fundamental in the implementation of CRM programs. Further, the development of CRM framework should be based on the three critical aspects. In essence, the three elements define the malfunction or accomplishment of any CRM application and implementation processes in the UAE banking institutions.
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