Many insurance agencies (and many businesses in general) across the country are having to work remotely with very little planning time due to the coronavirus. Here are a few tips, suggestions and recommendations…along with some “how to” actions you can do to get your insurance agency to thrive working remotely in as little as 24 hours.
Six Topics to discuss and consider:
- Answering phone calls remotely
- Helping “walk in” traffic remotely
- Taking payments remotely
- Selling insurance remotely (yes, we still have to make money!)
- Interoffice communication
- General Servicing of accounts and more
#1 – Answering phone calls remotely
Although many insurance agencies have already moved to voice over internet protocol (VOIP) phone systems, now is the time to do so. In short, this allows you to answer your office phones from anywhere in the world just as if you were sitting at your desk. There are many companies that can set this up for you in as little as 24 hours over the phone (pun intended) or online. This is inexpensive and in many cases can cut your phone system costs in half. All you need is the internet to run a VOIP phone system. A few companies to check out are RingCentral, Nextiva, 8X8, LightSpeed Voice, Kotter/Bridge, and BlueWave. You are probably thinking this is great, but what if a client shows up at our office…go on to number two.
#2 – Helping “walk in” traffic remotely
For many agencies, most specifically small town agencies, walk in “foot traffic” is a daily thing. Many of you are thinking that there is no way you can shut down your office and work remotely as you have to service these clients. Well, there is a way and it is called Ring Doorbell (or any other remote video doorbell system). You heard me, you can easily slap one of these video doorbells onto your main office door and when that doorbell rings, you can service your clients from afar! Now you are thinking, this is great but most clients show up to make a payment, now what?
#3 – Taking payments remotely
Ok, so you set up your VOIP phone system and have your video doorbell hooked up, now how do I take payments remotely? The answer is simple, ePayPolicy. That is right. Now you can take payments just like your insurance companies do…and the great thing is that this can cost as low as $20 per month. If you think about the time it takes to process payments on your end, you are probably making money because now you and your team are more productive. Please note that this is more related to “Agency Billed” policy billing so it it is a “Direct Billed” policy then you can turn your clients to the carrier website to pay directly.
#4 – Selling insurance remotely (yes, we still have to make money!)
We are all playing our part and trying to do as much “social distancing” as we can, right? One way to still “sell” in front of your clients and prospects is to do video proposals. Yep!…making money from your kitchen table. This is something our agency has been utilizing for years through our website provider (Advisor Evolved) but there is a free version you can use called Loom. Simply download the Chrome add-on and start recording yourself and/or your screen. Not only is Loom free but you will save countless hours by trimming your “proposal time” down from a one hour phone call to about 5-10 minutes doing a video proposal. It comes across more visually than just having a phone call and the best thing is that the client can rewatch the video or share it with a business partner or spouse so they can watch and learn. This is something you can implement literally right away…like go ahead and try it right now, well after you finish reading this article. Ok, great, we have the client communication down, but what about communicating with our team?…great question and now let’s discuss that!
#5 – Interoffice communication
Don’t you hate coming back from an appointment only to find that your inbox is filled with useless group “reply all” email replies saying “thank you” or “sounds good”…yea, me too. What if you want to ask a quick question about an insurance company’s appetite or if a company will charge a fee if someone does monthly bill pay? Or maybe just letting the staff know you are “going to lunch”? This probably doesn’t happen to you, right?…WRONG. We have found that the easiest way around these types of emails and communication filling up your inbox is to move to a communication system called SLACK (another is called Microsoft Teams). The simplest way to describe SLACK is to think of it as an instant messenger (like AOL back in the day) or even Facebook Messenger but on steroids. SLACK allows you to create “channels” (different topics of conversation) to communicate with your team in real time and not fill up everyone’s email inbox. It is free and all you have to do is download the desktop and mobile version and get started in about 15-30 minutes. Now let’s move on to the finishing touch and wrap this whole thing up.
#6 – General Servicing of accounts and more
In thinking about the day to day servicing of an account, there are many tools you can use to help you work remotely. Many are discussed above and there are many not even listed in this article, as this is intended to just get your feet wet. However, one crucial thing you need to make sure you do is keep security in front of mind and make sure when working remotely you are on a secure internet connection and preferred, using a VPN remote/cloud server. You also need to make sure that your agency’s management system allows for remote access (most do), however, if it doesn’t you can still “get by” with everything mentioned in this article during situations like coronavirus but you have to make sure everything is documented properly in your management system once back in the office. One final tool to use that many businesses use today, which is another way to communicate and stay on top of accounts, especially when marketing an account is to use Google Sheets and Google Docs. Google Sheets and Google Docs work almost identical to Microsoft Word and Excel, except they are “in the cloud” and available at any time. You can share these documents with just a click and others can even edit them in “real time” to make sure everyone has the most up to date version. Think of them as a live chalkboard to brainstorm, keep lists or tasks, or use as a tool to show examples to staff or clients.
In closing, there are many tools out there to help you work remotely, these are just a few to get you going and work more optimally and efficiently during this time and who knows, maybe moving forward for the foreseeable future. The key is to start with one and implement, do not try to do them all at them all at once. My recommendation is starting with the VOIP phone system and then pick what you think will be easiest to tackle next and so on. Best of luck!