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COVID-19 Coronavirus Update



COVID-19 Update

This is what other SAN Member Agents are doing

Trends and best practices from your peer agencies

 
SAN recently held a teleconference with some of our top member agents to look for trends and best practices on how independent agencies are performing with the dramatic changes over the last two weeks.

Considering the business challenges facing agents and their clients, it was heartening to hear the success stories of our members as they stabilize their businesses to be available to support their clients. Key to the agents’ success was the fact that they had been working towards digitizing their agency over the last few years.

It’s important to note that there were some differences between rural and metropolitan agencies. The rural agencies were still seeing an influx of new business and were able to remain open with fewer staff, with metropolitan agencies seeing more of a move to 100% remote/virtual except for a principal in the office.

  • All of the agents began their transition towards remote/virtual work 1-2 weeks ago and by the end of last week, were fully operational in their current state.
  • Their first priority was the safety and health of their staff. At first working remote was voluntary, however, as the situation evolved, most made remote work mandatory.
  • While NY agents have transitioned to virtual, the state has declared that insurance agencies are ESSENTIAL and must remain open. Other states are likely to follow. ‘ESSENTIAL and OPEN’ does include operating in a virtual capacity.
  • While staff are working remotely, there are usually one to two people in the office, typically, the principal is handling mail, deposits, etc.
  • Agents posted contact information on the agency door to let clients know how to reach the office staff and stating that no one will be allowed in the office.
  • Every one of these agencies has a cloud-based agency management system (AMS).
  • Some had or recently acquired laptops, including for support staff, making the transition much easier.
  • Others did send their desktop set-ups home, which allowed for security, scanners, monitors, etc.
  • As part of expanding the digitization of their agencies, these agents had email capabilities to many clients, robust social media capability and, in some instances, texting capabilities.
  • All agents communicated with their clients via email blasts and social media, informing them that they are available via phone and email, and asking clients to not come to the office.
  • Depending on phone capability, there was a mixture of office phones being forwarded or calls being received by one individual and forwarded to the appropriate staff members.
  • A few agents still had faxes coming to their office from clients. It was suggested that they subscribe to eFax and have their fax number forwarded to the eFax account (more information about efax is available at efax.com).
  • All agents were using DocuSign to transact business.
  • Agents who had been proactive with carrier service centers, or had a proactive program using self-service capabilities, have those additional resources for their clients.
  • Where offices have remained open (more in the rural areas), even in a limited capacity, the following actions were taken:
    • Zero foot traffic allowed in the office
    • Post online and via email new guidelines to office (appointment only, most service work available through phone, etc.)
    • Each station in the office has its own cleaning supplies (no sharing)
    • No passing items back and forth with clients (pens, phones, etc.)
    • Give employees the option of working remotely or in the office (when possible)
    • Work is taken home daily in case of an abrupt shutdown

Most of these agents had established their virtual position early and rapidly. As things evolved, they were able to easily respond and pivot their focus to their clients, especially small business owners:

  • Insureds calling about Business Interruption claims are being told to submit the claim. While the pandemic is not a covered loss to trigger BI, in some instances the insureds need a declination letter to acquire other state or federal services.
  • New York State Department of Financial Services released this website on Business Income coverage that may be helpful.

https://www.dfs.ny.gov/consumers/coronavirus/business_interruption_insurance_faqs

  • SIAA and SAN are working with the carriers to obtain lists of billing and coverage exceptions that you can make for your clients. This is a great way to be proactive with clients to let them know you are working to help them in this crisis.
  • Several agents were going a step further and building knowledge of the state and federal small business loans that are available. Again, a great way to show your clients that you care and are trying to help them. This may also have relevance to your own situation.
  • Many companies are allowing agents to add hired and non-owned auto to restaurants as an exception to assist clients.

Finally, moving any business to a remote/virtual environment requires additional management and work skills. Linked here is one of the many articles that SAN and SIAA are using as we walk down this path with you and our own teams: A Guide to Managing Your (Newly) Remote Workers.

SAN has made the transition to remote work and your communication and service should be seamless. If it is not, please let us know.