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Image by Amy Hirschi

Impact of Branch/Store Closures on Hearing Deprived and Deaf Customers

14 July, 2020

Last month ASB Bank announced it was closing a number of its branches and reducing the hours of operation for further branches. The reason for this is said to be the declining demand for face-to-face banking services as more individuals choose to bank via online or over the phone alternatives. 

This continues to be the trend for a number of different businesses from banking through to insurance. One group of individuals that haven't been considered with this move is the 880,000 Kiwis who are living with a hearing impairment. 

Hearing New Zealand was recently alerted to the fact that AMI plans on shutting all its physical branches and moving to an online and over the phone only service model. We were contacted by a concerned individual who asked if we could help her advocate for the hearing impaired AMI customers who rely on lip-reading to understand and effectively communicate. Below is the email our National President, Tony Rush sent through to the General Manager of AMI in hope of having an open discussion around how they can continue to service the hearing impaired community.

"I write on behalf of the tens of thousands on New Zealanders, many of them your customers, who are either deaf or substantially hearing impaired. I have read your website information about your planned closure of all of the AMI Insurance offices and their replacement with electronic or phone-based services that will ensure all your customers continue to receive the good service to which they are accustomed.

The people I speak for can’t hear you!

Typical of them is an individual who contacted Hearing New Zealand very concerned that her AMI branch is to close. She tells us she changed to AMI “because I could go to the office and lip read to communicate.”

Your replacement electronic and/or phone-based services will be of little or no use to her or very many like her. She needs to see and to lip read in order to ‘hear’; even more so when the topic is important and potentially complex as, for instance, discussing her insurance needs.

Please give some thought to this individual and the very many of your customers to whom the steps you propose represent a huge drop in service, a drop not really mitigated by your proposed communication replacements."

Do you know of any other organisations closing their in-person service options? Get in touch with us if you'd like our help with any advocacy for the hearing impaired community.

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