time to rebuild

COVID-19 has changed the world around us, and how we will do business requires we abide by new Federal, State, and County rules and regulations.

Knowing this leaves people with questions on what are the most important things that will allow them to get back to normal?  A natural feeling, but the way we do this will be very different. You’re utilizing your State posters, and online materials to meet your State-specific requirements and that will take care of your physical locations. But what about your online “location” and overall customer experience?

We are at a new point in time having to observe the protocols of wearing masks, plexiglass dividers, and 6-foot social distancing, moving forward your online brand and customer experience will take something more.


Changes in Customer Experience

Our physical offices are changing, and we will have to improve our online customer experience drastically to accommodate our new normal.

With the use of new channels, agencies have a significant opportunity to serve new clients with unique and creative services. Businesses are working on innovative projects to help them serve customers with empathy and efficiency. These opportunities are emerging because of the need to pivot quickly.

If one of your agency’s main selling points is service, how can you provide a wonderful customer experience to accommodate the new normal?

Here is my own personal experience from a business who did just that.


A Personal experience with a business’s new customer experience

I had a chance to experience the online customer journey first-hand booking an appointment.

The process began with an online request for an appointment: date and time, billing information, along with pertinent and succinct questions.  Once completed, I receive a choice of a text, link, or email recap of the interaction.  Calendar invite followed with the details on the scheduled appointment.

There was also an appointment reminder text/email, providing a phone number or number to text upon arrival in the parking lot. I received a text when they were ready to admit me into the building. I was greeted by name at the door and offered a mask and provided the standard health protocols.

After the appointment, I received a follow-up email/text recap of the visit along with the next steps and if I had questions could click on the video chat link. I received a personal call after the visit and they shared helpful links and access to retrieve documents on a personalized portal.  A follow-up survey was emailed requesting a rating of my customer experience.

Yes, it was unusual in some aspects, but the whole process was clear concise, and easy to use. The personal touch was still there in the appointment and follow up!


0.05 seconds

Online it takes only 1/10th of a second to form a first impression about a Company or Individual. Websites are no different. It takes about 50 milliseconds (ms) (that’s 0.05 seconds) for users to form an opinion about your site that determines whether they’ll stay or leave.

Your customer experience is more than the human interaction with your organization. You also must think about the digital experience.

  • Can consumers find the information they are looking for on your site?
  • Does your digital experience match the same level of service as your in-person experience?

You only have seconds or less to make a strong first impression, this is true of your physical location and your Website Front Door!

What does your website and digital presence say about your business? And what is your customer experience like?


Sales and Marketing Adaptions

The world has already changed, your sales and marketing should too. Just as your customer experience will change, your sales and marketing strategies will too.

Businesses are having to venture more deeply into areas that they’ve only dabbled in, or that need additional resources to help them create a profitable sales and marketing department.

Are you making changes in your sales and marketing initiatives to better reach prospective clients?


Where to invest sales and marketing budgets

Sales and Marketing departments are increasing investments in a variety of other channels. Here are the stats on which channels they expect to increase or significantly increase their investments:

  • Virtual event creation – 78 percent
  • Web content – 72 percent
  • Webinars – 67 percent
  • Social media – 66 percent
  • Blog content – 57 percent
  • Video – 50 percent

(Read from Forbes: The Biggest Marketing Challenges Facing Brands Covid-19)

As changes occur in the marketplace, we need to readjust our budget accordingly. Take this time to pull funds from channels that are becoming less effective and reinvest those funds into more profitable channels and tools.


Where to focus sales and marketing efforts

The change in the business landscape is causing the need for many traditional marketing and sales tactics to be replaced with digitally focused tactics.

  • Web content
  • Videos
  • Webinars
  • Digital Advertising
  • Email marketing
  • Automation and Segmentation

These are all tactics insurance agencies should begin looking to in order to reach client and prospective clients.

As businesses we need to look at our marketing and sales initiatives to create an experience which allows us to do business “face-to-face” without having to be physically face-to-face.

What new tactics, tools, platforms and strategies should you begin focusing on in order to create that new digital sales and marketing experience?

(Read: Marketing Lessons Learned From Covid-19)


Workforce Changes and Challenges

Within two months, Covid-19 has created the world’s most massive collective shift in social activity and working practices. This nearly instantaneous shift in the workplace created new working conditions that presented new challenges and risks to businesses.


Working Remotely

Research firm Global Workplace Analytics estimated in a 2018 report that 4.3 million people in the US worked remotely, representing just 3.2% of the country’s workforce. In a March 2020 survey of 464 executives by MIT Technology Review Insights, over two-thirds reported that more than 80% of their workforce is now working remotely. (read more and get the full report at technologyreview.com)

Study: proportion of workforce working remotely Study: US jobs suitability for remote workers based on industry

Key takeaways from MIT Technology Insights Stated:

  • Work will change, and faster—Directly related to the Covid-19 pandemic, between 32 and 50 million US jobs could be increasingly assisted by technology to reduce health risks posed by human interaction and safeguard productivity in a time of crisis.
  • New technology maps—Potentially repositioning the technology roadmap for their business around AI, automation, and the future of work.
  • Business leaders must take rapid steps to identify high-risk roles and provide training and development or new career pathways for workers. The augmentation versus automation of job functions capable of AI enhancement or automation and identify workers for whom specific training and career development will be required.


Remote work or back to business as usual?

As the US reopens, service-based industries such as insurance are faced with the decision of allowing workers to work from home or make them come back into the office.

According to the study, a large percentage of the job functions within the financial industry can be performed remotely. But because insurance is a very traditional and personable industry, many managers are requiring employees to come back to the office.

What will your agency choose to do? Allow remote work, or bring employees back into the office?


Challenges for companies as the workforce goes home

Many insurance agencies had to make immediate accommodations with little considerations for problems that could occur. Long term, this can lead to major problems.

Below are the potential issues that companies will have to consider reviewing the current status and make the necessary changes.

  • IT Staff – IT teams may be short-staffed and now having to send the workforce home – with connectivity to the office – this could be overwhelming. Mistakes or oversights, particularly with respect to security, will increase.
  • VPN Devices – Encrypt your computer’s connection to the corporate office and are essential to data security. Employees typically access email, resources, and other online portals without utilizing a VPN from home and insecure public networks. The patch window for VPNs is long and leaving the vulnerability exposed to exploitation.
  • Wi-Fi – Normally, home wi-fi broadcasts the network name (SSID) with information about the router and may be secured with a weak or default password.
  • Monitoring – Companies typically may have no process in place for monitoring VPN connections or what the employee is doing while connected remotely to the company network, or little to no visibility into what the employee does with sensitive information that has been removed from the company’s internal network.
  • Limited Office Staff – Vacant homes are invitations to intruders.  Offices without monitoring of systems and data is no different

As your workforce is at home, what changes might you have to take to ensure smooth business operations?


Protect Your Agency as you accommodate

As businesses adjust to a new way of doing things, new risks begin to emerge. Ensure you are protecting your agency against these threats.

  • Reset your modem or router with a strong customer password.
  • Securely utilize a password manager. and store your passwords.
  • Change your Wi-Fi network name (SSID) to something non-descriptive.
  • Update your home devices patches regularly and automatic updates.
  • Utilize multi-factor authentication to access all online portals.
  • Anti-virus software that detects and block advanced attacks, ransomware, and malware.
  • Use a VPN whenever you are out of the office or home including on your Mobile devices.
  • Install a firewall appliance between your home network and your modem/router.
  • Scan mobile devices with apps that identify all of the devices on your home network.
  • Train staff on safe practices

Cybercriminal attacks are frequently initiated through social engineering phishing and could lead to credential theft, Ransomware, and Fraud. Take action and steps to safeguard your business at the office and remote workers.

(Read the Big I Resource: Cybersecurity Threats and How To Stay Safe During the COVID19 Pandemic)

As we are distracted by the global health crisis, cybercriminals are exploiting the situation in many ways. These are areas to focus on and build better security and protection.


Utilize All Your Current Resources

There are resources available as you look to accommodate your customers and remote workers and as you rebuild your sales and marketing processes. Make the most of your memberships and the resources they provide.

Start with your State Association and The IIABA National Association they offer valuable and timely resources for your businesses!

Here are some examples of what IIABA ACT can offer:

  • Agency Disaster Plan
  • Agent’s Perspective on Disaster Readiness
  • Remote Work Best Practices
  • Remote Work Agreement
  • Agency-Customer Texting Agreement (Required by FCC)
  • Agency-Customer eDelivery Agreement (Docs, portal, eSignature)
  • Agency Cyber Guide
  • Written Information Security Plan template (requires Big ‘I’ ID/password)
  • Agency Website Privacy Policy (Downloadable, “Brand & Use”)
  • ADA & Accessibility

(Here are the Vital IIABA ACT Resources you can access)

Next you will want to be aware of what your carriers offer. As the marketplace shifts many carriers provide useful resources, learning opportunities, templates and new co-op opportunities.

You can also find invaluable insights from your peers, insurance community and of course organizations like us at InBuzz.

Use the resources available as guidelines to implementation of your plans and communication of these changes internally and externally to reassure customers, potential clients, carriers, and vendors of the safeguards and compliance processes in your business.


The Road to Rebuilding

Those leading any organization from corporations to institutions to our own families are not fixing the plane in midair, we’re building it. Times like these need leaders who are resilient in the face of such dramatic uncertainties.

Before Covid-19, the insurance industry was already on the road of transition, now we are facing the need to transition and rebuild simultaneously. It may be a challenge but resilient leaders understand this is not the end but rather the beginning of a new journey.

Identify what your organization is striving to become and map out the steps you need to get there. “The shift has happened in days, not months.  Businesses may be able to learn how to move faster, acting in more agile ways, as a result” (Amy C Edmondson, Harvard Business School)

Here are some considerations as your business maps out its road to rebuilding:

  • Shifting priorities mean the chance to focus on something you’ve had to put on the backburner for months or years. It means seeing how you can pull off a virtual version of the project you’ve been working on and bringing more creativity into what you do and how you do it.
  • Marketing technologies are deploying the latest tools to personalize marketing and sales. There’s no question that new digital technologies allow you to approach customers with multi-channel and niche focuses, but the rush to invest in new technologies designed to boost the return on investment often miss the core goal of knowing who your target customers are, and how they behave.
  • Map out the path and core strategic outcomes.


Breaking down the digital adoption challenge into manageable pieces:

Everything done within a business should revolve around the target customers and strategic outcomes. Here is how it can be broken down:

  1. Build targeted segmentation.
  2. Use technology to develop a deeper understanding of customers’ priorities and experience at each step of their relationship with your organization.
  3. Use technology to acquire and retain customers by using data-informed decisions.
  4. More experimentation and venture into new areas for possible innovation and development.
  5. Use years of experience to guide others and becoming a thought leader in the industry.

Formulating and using data information in new ways provides opportunities to change and shape the outcome rather than merely react to it.

Resilient leaders consider are we communicating our intentions clearly, transparently, building trust even when we don’t have all the answers? Can we completely deliver on what we are promising? How are we monitoring and measuring our progress?

Now is the time to transition and rebuild with strategic planning. 

The Process of Strategic Planning, if the plan doesn’t work, change the plan but never the goal.  Design from the heart and from the head, Mission first, Speed over elegance, Embrace the long game, and Own your narrative!