Convenience services – those services designed to make your life easier. In banking, that covers mobile apps, debit cards, payment systems, online banking, online chat (when available), and e-mail customer service, among others. To be honest, I expect e-mail customer service to be a mainstay in every industry, but my health insurance company proved to me recently that perhaps my expectations were too high.

I was having an issue with getting a prescription filled because the insurance company required a pre-authorization first. No problem. I respect that all companies have processes to follow, and I was willing to take the necessary steps to get this medication approved. I logged into my online account and sent an e-mail inquiring on what those steps might be.

Two days later, I received a voicemail message from my insurance company replying to my e-mail. What? I sent you an e-mail and you’re responding by phone? I didn’t have time to call them back and sit on hold forever. I didn’t even have time to e-mail them back immediately, so a few days later, I sent another e-mail with the same question. This time, I specifically requested a response by e-mail. A day later, I received another voicemail from my insurance company responding to my e-mail. This message said they were unable to reply to customers by e-mail but would be happy to help me by phone.

The whole point of e-mailing them in the first place was to save time and communicate back and forth with them when I had small windows of time in my day. Sometimes it is late at night before that happens. How much time am I saving if I spend the time to e-mail them, then have to spend more time listening to their voicemail messages and still end up having to call them on the phone? This is not convenience. It’s the opposite of convenience.

How do your financial institution’s convenience services compare? Do you respond to your customers or members the same way they contact you? Does your debit card cause problems for customers or members who make online purchases from merchants in other countries? Do your branches offer instant issue debit cards to customers or members who either lose their cards or have them stolen? Does your mobile app make it harder or easier for people to access their accounts? Can customers or members access their e-statements through your online banking platform or do they have to log into another site first? Do your so-called convenience services actually make life easier and more convenient for your customers or members?

These (and many others) are the questions all financial institutions should be asking. In a day and age when digital is taking convenience services to a whole new level, those not measuring up will be deal breakers for consumers. If you expect them to choose your financial institution instead of your competition, you absolutely must ensure that doing business with your financial institution is the easiest and most convenient option.

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