Towards An Experience Transformation Roadmap for The Gulf Cooperation Council Service Landscape by Abdalla Elbadawy

In this article, I tried to set the stage for a series of articles covering topics related to experience transformation within the context of the GCC area with its challenges and complications. The topics will be subject-based such as co-creation, engagement, experience metrics etc. or beneficiary-based such as citizen experience, expat experience, students experience and so on. By the end of this series, an experience transformation roadmap for the GCC context will be formulated.

Chapter 1 – a showroom

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“I know what our public services can do and how they are the backbone of this country. But I know too that the way they have been run for decades – old-fashioned, top-down, take-what-you’re-given – is just not working for a lot of people. Ours is a vision of open public services – there will be more freedom, more choice and more local control. Wherever possible we are increasing choice by giving people direct control over the services they use…” David Cameron, British Prime Minister July 2011

I visited a showroom to buy a new car. In exploration of the financing options, I checked three of the four banks that had booths at the show room. I was eligible for two offers out of which I selected one that came from one of the largest and best-established banks in the country. I submitted all required papers and were notified that they will screen the application and go through their verification process. Some of the crucial steps in this process includes calling me and my employer to get the approval. Few days later, I got a call during a very important business meeting which I couldn’t answer. After the meeting finished, I tried to call back several times with no response and it appeared from the IVR that it was the bank that called. After two days, I visited the showroom to meet the bank representative to follow up. The representative informed me that my application was closed because I didn’t answer the bank’s call, but he will re-open my application to continue the financing process! As his computer system was down, he said I’ll do this tomorrow or the day after once the system is up again. I made sure to take his mobile number for easier follow up. Again, after some days, I missed a phone call that happened to be from the bank. I tried to call back with no response. I then tried to call the bank representative many times but he never answered the call. Accordingly, I had to re-visit the showroom and he repeated that the only way to complete the application is to answer the phone call. Finally, I was able to answer their call and complete the process after more than two weeks. The catch is that I have to answer their call from the first time! This experience took place in one of the biggest GCC countries.

It goes without saying that the Arabian Gulf region, also referred to as Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), that includes KSA, UAE, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar & Bahrain is a very important economic and geopolitical area. The GCC region is characterized by a complicated and diversified nature where every country is represented by a resident, a company, a tourist or a politician. This complicated and diversified nature is creating challenges on different levels especially in the service and experience-based interactions. These challenges are putting more pressure on the policy and decision makers to think differently and holistically.

Chapter 2 – Alternative resources

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According to the World Population Review website, in December 2015, expats constitutes around 45 % (25 million) of the GCC countries population. These figures could help quantify the levels and nature of challenges but taking a qualitative perspective on reality and consequences would bring a rather dramatic and painful scene. Cultures, behaviors, values, previous experiences, ways of living, education systems, motivations, needs, pains, objectives and future plans are amongst many factors that would affect the evaluation of experiences received by that diverse society of expats. The outcomes of these evaluations will decide how they will engage with their new life and thereby affecting how these countries will benefit and make use of the huge number of expats they host.

41% is the contribution of the Service sector to the economy of the GCC countries according to the CIA World Fact-book (2014 estimates). There is a huge opportunity for the GCC countries to make use of the Service sector to tackle their economic challenges.

Although the GCC countries seem to have sufficient oil reserves for consumption and exports, to maintain their high life standards and to maintain serving their people, the current world and regional political issues are pushing these countries to find new sources of income or the so-called non-oil revenues. This is a major shift and the alternative is already there but needs a paradigm shift, a new lens; the service and experience transformation mindset.

Chapter 3 – Transformation

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Joseph Pine and James Gilmore in their wonderful book “The Experience Economy” have divided the economic offering into; commodity, product, service, experience and transformation. Moving through these types of economic offerings requires a mindset shift by putting the people (the beneficiaries) at the heart of every move and by realizing that those people are the real assets of the nations to stay competitive and productive. It’s also important to know that the mindset shift isn’t an easy task but rather a very challenging process.

The Citizen Experience of the Federal Government Services is evaluated within the American Customer Satisfaction Index. According to a 2011 MeriTalk study, called “Uncle Sam at Your Service: Federal Customer Experience Study” 83 percent of the citizens surveyed wanted to see government citizen experience improved. 42% said they would be willing to pay more in taxes if they could get better customer service. Experts noted that improving the federal customer — or citizen — experience is important to how Americans view their country.

“Data shows the worse a federal customer’s experience is, the less likely that person is to say that they are proud of our country and optimistic about our country’s future,” said Rick Parrish, senior analyst serving customer experience professionals with Forrester Research.

Understanding the context is crucial for a good start and given the above information, the context of the GCC countries is full of challenges that needs experience-based design and people-centered initiatives. Design for citizens, design for expats, design for new comers, design for investors, design for disabled, design for patients, design for elders, design for children, to name a few.

Interesting links: