On both the Gulf Coast and East Coast, we periodically experience the wrath of hurricanes, which interrupt the lives of our clients. Anywhere you live in the United States, you could experience a disaster. In the insurance industry, we sell a promise to pay in the event of a claim for a covered peril. Therefore, it's when problems like hurricanes arise that agents and carriers, together, have an opportunity to provide an outstanding experience for clients.
In such a scenario, however, it's easy for agents to become overwhelmed with trying to find a remote location from which to service clients and deal with hundreds of claims. To be best prepared for unexpected events, the Agents Council for Technology has shared recommendations for improving responses to natural disasters.
First, agents must ensure that all staff understand their roles following a disaster, and agents should form strategic partnerships with key response organizations to provide safety for their employees and empathetic assistance to clients.
Beyond that, there are many physical office and communications issues to address in advance. The more an agency embraces technology and offsite/cloud storage of critical data, the better off they will fair. There are many third-party resources for emergency offices, buddy agencies or call centers that should be considered in agency disaster planning. Cell phones and satellite communication is important, because agencies need to be up and running within 24 hours. Clients must be able to contact the agency. Important contact information can be pushed out to clients through the agency website, Facebook and Twitter. There are many new tools evolving. The more email addresses an agency collects in advance, the easier it will be to locate clients and assist in connecting them with adjusters.
Carriers will be doing their best to respond and be accessible to clients as well. Use of local media is quite helpful in calming clients and letting them know agents and carriers will be accessible and responding to their needs. Carriers can present a united front with their agents by helping them set up temporary office sites. Carriers should also send out periodic notices to their agent partners on the appropriate claims contact numbers, faxes, emails and procedures, so that the agents can easily use or provide the information as needed. The bottomline with carrier-agent relations is that they need to be very visible within the community following a disater, as this goes a long way toward goodwill with clients.
Technology and portability are critical keys to surviving. Agents and carriers working together to provide a professional, caring and speedy response for our mutual clients — that is the goal in every disaster.
Angelyn Treutel, CPA, is president of Southgroup Insurance Gulf Coast and the chair of ASCnet's Industry Solutions Industry Initiatives Committee and the past-chair of the IIABA Agents Council for Technology.
Readers are encouraged to respond to Angelyn by using the “Add Your Comments” box below. She can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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