EQUIPPING AGENTS TO HANDLE CLIENT COMMUNICATIONS IN A DISASTER
Automation tools and pre-prepared messaging will help agents serve clients and reduce stress
By Joel Zwicker
Staring at disaster, insurance agents are faced with the most important task of their career: ensuring that their clients, and everything they hold dear, are safe. Wildfires, floods, hurricanes and snowstorms—these are some of the moments when agents earn every cent they’ve made. As soon as a large-scale disaster strikes, agents are tasked to do everything in their power to share important, time-sensitive information regarding emergency resources and how to begin filing a claim.
To meet the threshold of their duties, agents need to do two things and they need to do them now: prepare their communications in case of numerous disasters, and guarantee that the lines of communication are easily accessed at any time, from anywhere. To address these needs and to be prepared for a crisis, agents need automated communication tools and a fleshed-out communications plan to be ready to jump in and help clients get through a disaster.
Manual processes won’t cut it
In emergency situations, safety and peace of mind are created by human thoughtfulness and swift communication. All agents should be able to provide the former, but without the latter, it will be all but impossible to reach every single client with the information they need when they need it.
Imagine that a gas explosion rocks a major city overnight and a major fire ensues. Hundreds of homes are damaged or destroyed, thousands of people are displaced, and cellular services are over-whelmed. How do you reach out to clients?
In the worst-case scenario, your office was in the initial blast zone, and your contacts and data were stored in your server room without a cloud backup. Your life will be very painful after the initial disaster winds down. Please don’t set your agency up for this level of failure.
In the next slightly-less-bad scenario, you have remote access to an up-to-date management system. Your first step is to gather all the information that survivors will need in the next several days, such as emergency resources, contact information for organizations such as the Red Cross, and how to start filing claims as soon as clients are somewhere safe. Gathering this information will take some time, as will drafting communications. It will then take more time to send it out to every impacted client, and then a lot more time to try to call impacted clients and make sure they have all this info.
Time and information are precious in these situations, and every hour that goes by for someone without hearing from their agent is an hour that they are being failed. It is imperative that every agent is prepared for the unexpected and can swiftly inform their clients of everything they need to know.
It is imperative that every agent is prepared for the unexpected and can swiftly inform their clients of everything they need to know.
Prepare disaster-related content
There are multiple touchpoints in an emergency situation, and agents need to prepare communications for each—addressing all possible scenarios in the geographical areas they serve. The first touch point of disaster communication happens before disaster strikes and lets clients know how they can prepare for a potential disaster. An agent on the West Coast, for example, anticipates wildfire season every year and also knows that earthquakes are a daily possibility.
For seasonal events like wildfires, tornadoes and hurricanes, agents need to send clients information ahead of the season and periodically throughout it regarding how clients can be ready for it. For unpredictable events like earthquakes, regular reminders will keep clients aware of the possibility of disaster and how to prepare and react. These communications should include information such as:
- How to best protect property in the event of a disaster
- How to create a family communications plan
- Evacuation protocols to safely evacuate a disaster area
- Local evacuation centers, emergency resources and their contact information
- How to reach the agency during a disaster, including alternate locations
- How to file a claim directly with the carrier, if needed
In the midst of an actual disaster, there are more touchpoints as the disaster begins, continues and eventually crescendos. Agents should prepare initial and follow-up communications for all those points. Keep in mind that while each specific disaster may need different levels of touch, over-communicating is always better than under-communicating—better to be persistent than unreachable.
Agents need to prepare messaging for these events now, so that when they occur they aren’t scrambling in the moment to compose and send them. Develop messages for the disasters most anticipated in your area. It’s also a good idea to prepare at least some basic messaging for unpredictable and unexpected events—human error or malice can lead to devastating chemical leaks, airplane crashes, and other potential events that all require a quick, knowledgeable response from agents.
Automation saves time
Once all communication materials are prepped, the other part of the equation is making sure they can be quickly distributed. This is when automated communication technology becomes a need, not a want, for agents. In a world where emergency alerts can be sent in an instant to every phone in the vicinity of a crisis, agents need to be right behind to support their clients.
The first step in a disaster situation is identifying which clients are impacted. This is an extensive manual process and exponentially more difficult for agencies with a broad geographic reach. In these scenarios, agents don’t have hours—or days—to export and scrub client lists to gather this info. Rather, platforms that facilitate automated communications will have this data backed up to their system and will make it much easier to sort through lists and gather the appropriate information. This is also extremely helpful in scenarios where an agent can’t get to the office in a timely manner (or at all, for that matter).
Before sending their pre-developed messages out (or using relevant third-party content from the automated platform, as may be the case), agents can quickly go through their message and update any information to make it as timely and relevant as possible for the current situation. Then, at the touch of a button, emails can be sent out to all impacted clients. In the time it would take to manually disseminate this information, agents can begin focusing on specific claims and client needs as they come in. As days pass and the disaster either continues or calms down, follow-up messages can be automatically sent as claims come in and more clients can safely reach out for help. In these scenarios, agents may be working with hundreds of claims, but this shouldn’t impact their ability to continue communicating with clients and providing updates.
Helping agents become heroes
Agents exist to protect people’s livelihoods in life’s most surprising and devastating moments, so it is paramount that agencies are prepared to handle disaster-level events. The most important thing they can do to ensure this is to make sure there are never any communication gaps. By preparing disaster-related communications ahead of time and leveraging automation technology to send them out at a moment’s notice, agents can truly earn their clients’ trust and guide them through a crisis no matter the circumstances.
Agents help clients prepare for the unexpected on a daily basis—in turn, they need to ensure they do the same in-house. The insurance industry knows better than anyone that life happens and disasters can strike at any time. That’s precisely why it is vital that agents invest in the right tools and processes so they can ensure they are able to keep in touch with clients in their time of need.
Joel Zwicker is Agency Revolution’s chief evangelist. He has helped hundreds of independent agencies improve key performance indicators and achieve growth objectives. He coaches them in their digital transformation by helping them leverage digital marketing, marketing automation and content marketing. In addition to his years at Agency Revolution, Joel has extensive agency experience. For 11 years he was an independent agent and spent the last eight of those years overseeing the marketing efforts for a large agency. In that role he opened multiple branch offices, engaged more mature segments of the agency in both their digital and traditional marketing efforts, and spear-headed the agency’s initiative to become one of the most “liked” agencies on Facebook.