Times of crisis have a way of speeding up the pace of change in an industry, and COVID-19 has definitely done so for the insurance industry.
2020 changed how people work, communicate and use technology. This year, insurance agents and brokers had to throw out their plans and re-examine every aspect of how they operate and serve customers.
Going forward, the world is going to look very different, and I believe the changes can help drive the insurance industry forward. I fully expect that two years from now, the industry will be much further along than we would have expected.
Here are some of the ways this time can prompt insurance agencies to change for the better:
Getting creative about how to connect with clients
This pandemic has made us all realize how important it is to stay connected, and it has made us connect in more efficient ways.
My company does licensing and compliance for insurance agencies and carriers, serving about 20,000 agents and brokers annually. Our reps used to only physically see between 1% and 3% of our clients each year, but after COVID hit, we found that more of our clients were willing to connect virtually. We’re actually getting to see our clients way more now than we did before, and we feel even more connected because we’re able to see each other in our home settings.
Before this year, a lot of agents built relationships over lunch or at the golf course. That approach allowed an agent to build a few in-depth relationships, but it wasn’t easy to scale. How many lunches or rounds of golf can you get in in one day? Not many. Those in-person interactions might only happen once or twice a year with each client.
Online tools give agents the opportunity to connect with clients a lot more frequently. You can set up your schedule to accommodate more quick check-ins, or record short videos to share with your clients.
Those simple touchpoints allow clients to see you more frequently and connect with you as a human being. Plus, if you make a video, you can distribute it to thousands of people in one day – that’s a whole lot more reach than you ever could have had previously. To me, that’s a game-changer for agents.
Allowing work flexibility
Before COVID, many organizations, including ours, were reluctant to have employees work from home. Now, after months of being forced to do so, we’ve seen what has worked and what hasn’t. We have conducted interviews via video call, used online training and onboarded employees completely remotely.
Having our offices disrupted can allow us to rethink what office life looks like. My company, like many others, will emerge from this time with a hybrid style of work.
I remember weathering my first crisis in the insurance industry when the financial markets collapsed in 2008. Many of the agencies we served went under, merged or couldn’t afford our services anymore.
We had many hard, honest conversations and had to quickly pivot the way we billed our time and the services we offered. What came out of that period was a suite of online courses we could offer agencies so they could do compliance training in-house. It took time to develop, but we knew investing in online tools would help keep us out of crisis mode in the future.
When faced with big challenges, most people have the tendency to either freeze or to jump into immediate action and ask, “What do I need to do to get ahead of this?” The trailblazing, forward-looking insurance agencies are the ones that will survive and thrive in the long-term. You have to constantly think about what’s next in the industry and how to make your services even more robust for your clients.
Whether or not your agency was set up with digital tools before COVID hit, you can use this time to launch the projects that may have been on the backburner. Those who take action right now can come out of this year ahead of the game, with better processes and tools that will set them up well for years to come.
The views, opinions, and positions expressed herein are those of the author alone, and should not be considered to represent official positions of Liberty Mutual or Safeco nor to imply any endorsement by Liberty Mutual or Safeco.