In the Gulf region, there is no happier place to live than the United Arab Emirates (UAE) according to the latest edition of the World Happiness Report. The UAE is at the top of the list of Arab nations and is home to some of the happiest cities on the planet such as Abu Dhabi and Dubai.1
Dubai has its own "Happiness Agenda" — a city-wide vision led by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, which aims to "make Dubai the happiest city on earth" using a "science based" approach to "measure, impact and sustain happiness for the whole city."2 Across the UAE, residents place a high value on empathy, and this ethos is reflected in the quality of its customer experience management.
The impact of COVID-19 was overwhelming for some consumers, and successful brands were ones which could prove themselves to be reliable and trustworthy during these unsettling times.
The UAE's highest-ranking brand is Emirates Airlines. During COVID-19, Emirates focused on a policy of open communication and general responsiveness. For example, customers who had already purchased plane tickets could choose to retain them until they were ready (or able) to fly, with Emirates extending their validity up to 24 months. Customers could also receive a full refund, or a travel voucher which could be exchanged for other Emirates flights or products. 3
The best brands aim to deliver a better experience than the general consensus of what constitutes 'good'. Like many brands in the UAE, Emirates aims to provide a 'luxurious' experience for the customer. For instance, some of the seats on Emirates' A380 jets are equipped with their own brass-plated drinks holders and doors which allow passengers to effectively seal themselves into private rooms.4
Financial services organization HSBC is ranked second in this year's research. HSBC has adopted a strategy of improving its digital offerings. In 2018 some of the branches in the UAE underwent a transformation into Customer Service Units. These branches aim to blend digital self-service technologies with human interaction where visitors can print and emboss their own HSBC debit and credit cards.5
These new Customer Service Units seek to expedite the banking experience by offering on-the-spot video conferencing for visitors to its branches.6
Entertainment and leisure brand VOX Cinemas ranks number three. It is the largest cinema chain in the Middle East, with 490 screens across 47 locations. In 2017 it won the Best Cinema in the World award at the CinemaCon conventiown.7
It offers a service named 'Gold' which includes "plush seating", food and drink. According to one customer, "VOX Cinemas are the go-to place for any comfortable movie-watching experience in UAE. This time the VOX Gold experience proved that this is the gold standard of movie experience with its luxurious setting and services."8
Another brand which has provided a rapid response to COVID-19 is Spinneys Dubai which operates 50 Spinneys supermarkets and eight Waitrose stores in the UAE.9 The demand for home grocery deliveries has accelerated dramatically this year. Spinneys launched a new e-commerce delivery service — a direct response to consumers' changing preference to shop for groceries online. Spinneys anticipates e-commerce demand will continue to gather pace and aims to deliver an omnichannel customer experience.10
Consumers are becoming increasingly selective in their decision-making. As we move towards 2021 brands will have to demonstrate that they are 'COVID-19 safe', can be trusted and that their services deliver value for money.
“COVID-19 has had an unprecedented impact on all sectors in the UAE. It has put customer experience at the forefront of levers to drive loyalty and confidence among consumers. Companies are increasingly looking to invest in more proactive approaches. Enhancing the use of data and data-driven insights is going to play a huge role in enabling companies to be more predictive in nature, anticipating customers' needs and wants, rather than just being reactive." ”
Pilar de Miguel Veira
Customer Experience Lead, Partner
KPMG in the UAE
Note: Brands are listed in alphabetical order.