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Eye of Riyadh
Business & Money | Monday 15 January, 2024 2:15 pm |

Growing positive sentiment towards Saudi retail banks according to new PwC Middle East and DataEQ report

A comprehensive analysis of leading retail banks in Saudi Arabia shows that while there is a growing positive sentiment towards the banking industry, lingering challenges continue to affect the overall consumer perception and reputation of financial institutions.

In its first joint KSA Banking Sentiment Index, PwC Middle East, together with DataEQ, analysed consumer sentiment towards seven major retail banks in Saudi Arabia, which includes Al Rajhi Bank, Alinma Bank, Al Bilad Bank, Riyad Bank, Saudi National Bank, Saudi Awwal Bank and Banque Saudi Fransi. 

The index tracked over 5 million posts on X (formerly Twitter) pertaining to these banks, which were then processed using DataEQ’s proprietary method that combines Crowd and AI technology. The conversations are split into two distinct categories – operational and reputational – which together form the Net Sentiment towards an organisation.

Overall, the industry shows signs of improvement, with an 11.3 percentage point increase in Net Sentiment compared to 2022. This uptick can be largely attributed to a 9.1 percentage point increase in reputational Net Sentiment, attributed to factors such as CSI initiatives, flourishing financial performances and improved customer experience (CX). However, despite CX improvements, customer service and turnaround time are commonly cited as prominent pain points. Furthermore, digital downtime is impacting the industry and customer confidence in financial institutions in the Kingdom.

Mark Stanley, Partner, Financial Service Consulting at PwC Middle East, said: “Customer acquisition and retention are deeply intertwined with consumer sentiment. Our index harnesses the power of social media feedback, offering direct, unfiltered insights into the experiences of an outspoken online population. For banks, ignoring these potent voices is more than just oversight—it's a lost opportunity in understanding and meeting modern consumer needs.”

Social media platforms often serve as outlets for customer complaints, especially when conventional communication channels fall short. As a result, operational conversations frequently skew towards the negative. While some banks have effectively harnessed reputational Net Sentiment, boosting the quality of operational interactions holds substantial promise for elevating overall Net Sentiment.

Customer service emerged as the dominant topic with the highest social media conversation volume, displaying a low Net Sentiment of -82.1%. This indicated a need for improvement across all banks, mainly due to extended resolution times for consumer issues. Products were the next significant subject, recording a Net Sentiment of -37.4%, driven by negative feedback on debit cards and similar offerings, citing transactional problems and delays in card issuance. Reputation, the third-largest topic, showcased a positive Net Sentiment. It highlighted community programs, education, and environmental initiatives that engaged consumers positively. Many also praised banks for promoting fraud awareness and customer vigilance on social media.

Digital experience ranked among the most negatively perceived topics, generally attributed to system outages and app downtime. Such technical setbacks left consumers unable to complete essential transactions, causing frustrations that contributed to a negative Net Sentiment of -81.1%.

“This analysis is intended to empower stakeholders for swift action and the development of long-term strategic plans, which can contribute to both enhancement of public sentiment and profits,” added Stanley. “As the Saudi banking industry witnesses dynamic shifts, ensuring focus on improving operational performance in areas such as customer service and digital reliability stands to provide significant business advantage.”

Melanie Malherbe, Managing Director at DataEQ, said: “This index not only highlights the challenges facing the Saudi banking industry, but also outlines clear opportunities for transformation. Amid escalating competition from new market entrants and a greater need for digital customer support, banks must not only maintain their good reputation, but also strive for continual operational improvements to ensure a holistic, customer-centric banking experience.”

“By embracing and acting upon consumer feedback on social media, Saudi banks can successfully turn the tide of negative sentiment and pave the way for a future where consumer trust and satisfaction are at the heart of their operations.”

PwC Middle East remains committed to helping banks navigate the dynamic financial landscape, ensuring a future that is more robust, consumer-centric and resilient. By deploying an effective and comprehensive approach, the leading consultancy firm aims to empower banks in embracing innovation and cultivating stronger connections with their clientele, aligned with the long-term vision of the Kingdom.



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