The way your customers feel about you is important. The more you show you care about them, the more they’ll likely want to continue doing business with you. Customer service offers a powerful edge in these challenging economic times and should naturally be a business priority. Listening to what your customers are telling you is a key factor in providing quality customer service. But, what if your customer has a disability and chooses to use a different way to talk with you? Will you be ready and willing to still listen?
Major financial institutions, among many others, apparently aren’t ready and are refusing to communicate with individuals with disabilities who use relay services to communicate by telephone. These refusals are discrimination under the ADA. Relay services, available nationwide, makes the telephone network accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing or who have speech impairments.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Wells Fargo learned the hard way when they wouldn’t do business with some of their customers over the phone using the relay service. Instead, the individuals were directed to call a TTY/TDD line that asked them to leave a message, which went unanswered. In a comprehensive ADA settlement agreement with the DOJ, Wells Fargo will make sure that equal access is provided for individuals with disabilities to its services nationwide, including its nearly 10,000 retail banking, brokerage and mortgage stores, over 12,000 ATMs, and its telephone and website services. Wells Fargo will also pay up to $16 million to compensate individuals harmed by certain violations and pay a $55,000 civil penalty to the United States.
It’s also important to note that people with disabilities have $175 billion in discretionary spending, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. That’s more than four times the spending power of tweens (8-14 year-olds). It seems a “no-brainer” that financial institutions, like banks, would cultivate this large and growing market by ensuring that all services were accessible.
Providing effective communication is a business imperative. Take steps to make sure your customer representatives recognize and accept relay calls. In addition, provide staff training on the ADA and your company’s obligations to provide effective communication to individuals with disabilities. If you’re not sure about your specific requirements, Springboard is available to design a program tailored to your needs.
This information should not be construed as “legal advice” for a particular set of facts or circumstances. It is intended only to be a practical guide for participants familiar with this subject. Users should seek appropriate legal advice tailored to address their specific situation.