Insurance office closure alarms resident

Losing face-to-face contact after the closure of Waimate's AMI branch is worrying an older resident.

Lin Courtney turns 90 in October and feels the branch closing next week will affect older people in the region who are not into the electronic world.

He said the personal touch of going into the office, seeing the staff with a smile on their faces, put the customer at ease.

Knowing the branch manager also helped when it came to dealing with local claims.

"If I have a spillage from my log burner and the carpet gets scorched, I ring up [the manager] and she is here within an hour and she would make a decision then and there."

The Waimate branch has the highest customer retention rate and the highest per head of population of people who pay by cash, eftpos and cheque.

After the branch closes on July 25, customers will have to go to branches in Timaru or Oamaru to deal with staff in person.

Waimate Mayor Craig Rowley said it was very disappointing the company was closing its offices, especially as the district had a higher number of older residents.

AMI customer delivery general manager Kevin Hughes said it acknowledged some customers liked face-to-face contact.

He said the company believed the proximity of branches in Timaru and Oamaru would provide the support for new and existing customers. Customers also had the option to reach AMI by phone or through the website.

"The level of customer care demonstrated by AMI's Waimate team in supporting the local community is a credit to our people there. The strong relationships and loyalty developed as a result are valued by AMI."

Hughes said the decision to close the branch was not taken lightly.

However, there was a need to vacate the current site because of the lease ending and the building not being up to company policy standards after the earthquakes. Relocating to another site was not commercially viable.

AMI remained committed to having branches across the country, but did take the opportunity to review locations when leases come up for renewal.

"We will continue to do our utmost to support the community through the local Oamaru and Timaru AMI branches and through our contact centre," Hughes said.

The Timaru Herald