RIYADH: Consumer sentiments toward Saudi Arabia’s largest banks rose 11.3 percentage points in 2023 as compared to the previous year, according to an industry report.

It is an economic indicator that measures consumers’ satisfaction with the services and operations of an organization. The report was prepared by PwC Middle East in collaboration with DataEQ.

The analysis targeted leading retail banks in Saudi Arabia including Al Rajhi Bank, Alinma Bank, Al Bilad Bank, Riyad Bank, Saudi National Bank, Saudi Awwal Bank, and Banque Saudi Fransi.

The study, known as the first joint KSA Banking Sentiment Index, evaluated over 5 million social media posts related to these banks using DataEQ’s unique blend of Crowd and artificial intelligence technologies.

The report categorizes conversations into operational and reputational aspects, forming the basis for the net sentiment toward the institutions.

It attributed the improvement in the Kingdom’s banking industry to a 9.1 percentage point rise in reputational net sentiment. The report said factors such as community social investment initiatives, strong financial performances, and enhanced customer experiences contributed to the surge.

Despite these advancements, customer service and response times remain key challenges, negatively impacting consumer perception, it stated. Furthermore, the sector is also grappling with the impact of digital downtime on customer confidence.

The report highlighted that operational conversations on social media often reflect customer grievances, particularly when traditional communication channels are insufficient.

These discussions tend to be negative, suggesting a need for banks to improve the quality of operational interactions.

Customer service, the most discussed topic on social media, showed a net sentiment of negative 82.1 percent, indicating an urgent need for enhancements across all banks.

“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,” Mark Stanley, partner, Financial Service Consulting at PwC Middle East, said.

Moreover, product-related discussions also revealed dissatisfaction, particularly concerning debit card services and card issuance delays, leading to a net sentiment of negative 37.4 percent.

On a positive note, reputation-related topics received favorable responses, with banks’ community programs, educational initiatives, and environmental efforts resonating well with consumers.

The banking sector’s digital experience, however, was a significant concern. Technical issues such as system outages and app downtime affected the net sentiment, with consumers expressing frustration over being unable to complete crucial transactions.

This aspect recorded a net sentiment of negative 81.1 percent, underscoring the need for improvements in the digital infrastructure.

Overall, the report suggests that while Saudi Arabia’s banking sector is on an upward trajectory in terms of reputation and financial performance, there is still substantial room for improvement in customer service, digital experience, and operational efficiency.

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