Canadian Underwriter

Operating efficiently during COVID-19

May 9, 2020   by Steve Whitelaw, Vice President of Industry and Partner Relations, Applied Systems

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COVID-19 brings uncertainty for individuals and businesses. It creates demand for all-new service levels, as well as organizational angst about how to work in an expanded remote working environment.

Our industry has found itself at the front line of this outbreak. Brokerages are navigating exposure to the same operational threats as other businesses in their community; at the same time, they are supporting local businesses and policyholders in this time of need.

Small and medium-sized businesses are the foundation of our communities; they have been the hardest hit by the current pandemic. Half of small businesses have reported a drop in sales due to COVID-19, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said on Mar. 17. One-quarter of them believed they would not survive another month if the outbreak further cut their income.

These businesses will be looking to their independent broker to help navigate future risks as they evaluate survival strategies and future operating risks.
While many aspects of life will continue for consumers, economic uncertainty will contribute to a shift in behaviour. Consumers will be looking for guidance as they question their personal and business future, and they may need access to coverage rates and critical documents to navigate uncertain times. It is more important than ever before for Canada’s broker channel to evaluate how it will be there for consumers when they need advice and safeguards for the future.

Here are a few strategies we encourage you to consider as part of your business continuity plan to ensure the highest level of customer service, especially during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Keep your workforce connected
Digital brokers are harnessing technology to manage the customer journey regardless of location. Many brokers had to begin working from home before their home offices (or living rooms) were fully equipped. To provide effective advice, brokers require flexibility and remote access to the information they are accustomed to accessing while in the office.

Browser access to the brokerage management system through the cloud keeps employees securely connected to critical applications and up-to-date client and policy information using virtually any connected device, enabling them to reach and service clients at any time. The duration of the current social distancing measures is not known. This is a perfect time, therefore, to optimize operational processes enabled by broker management systems to accommodate this new way of working.

Keep connected to your insureds
It is critical to be accessible during uncertain times and to keep channels of communication with consumers open. Digital technology is available to support service both with and without face-to-face interaction.

In the current environment (and in the future), self-service customer portals and mobile apps will enable consumers to inquire, access and manage their policy documents whenever they need them. Integrated with your brokerage management system, the portal syncs all activities by the customer in real time so that you are always kept up-to-date with your customers, even during uncertain times. A customer-facing mobile app takes these capabilities even further and puts them in the palm of your customers’ hands.

Keep your business momentum
Let’s face it, our industry is riddled with paper. One particularly paper-heavy process is applications and renewals — and yet these processes cannot stop when people are working remotely from home. As we re-define the nature of working remotely, this process needs to become as digital as possible to continue functioning efficiently.

Managing renewals and communications by mail requires significant on-site administration and overhead. Using technology such as digital smart forms for commercial lines applications will make the application process easy and stress-free for insureds. Traditionally, this process would take several days and meetings to complete the application. However, you can offer a more digital approach and give your customer one less thing to worry about.

Additionally, e-signature tools reduce to a fraction of the time the traditional process of having the consumer either come into the office to sign a document or to wait for the application to be mailed. It is too much hassle and potential stress to have to print, sign, and scan an application. Instead, allow the insured to sign their application forms electronically.

Fear of the unknown can cause people to panic, and remote work can feel isolating. People want to feel connected and protected during uncertain times. We have heard countless stories from brokerage leaders finding new ways to keep in touch with their team and their customers. The more brokerage teams feel connected, the better equipped they will be to address the needs of their customers effectively, especially during the unprecedented global pandemic that we face today.

Digital technology enables new ways of doing business and serves as a forum for brokers to navigate uncertain times together, so they can ultimately safeguard their most important assets: Relationships with loyal customers and employees.
Be safe. Be well.

Steve Whitelaw has more than 20 years of technology leadership and industry relations experience in the Canadian P&C marketplace.

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