Eight survival tips for an insurance agency during COVID-19

Jeff Arnold (jeffa@rightsure.com) is the president of Rightsure Insurance Group in Tucson, Arizona, and the author of “The Art of the Insurance Deal” and the new book “How to Beat YourInsurance Company”.

Lesson No. 1: Get income from as many channels as possible

When I see the reasons for which our revenue has been wiped out, it comes down largely to a few key dependencies that were impacted at the same time. For example:

- Centers of Influence. A significant portion of our business is generated by our Right Rater app, used by auto dealerships to provide auto insurance at the point of sale, and used by mortgage providers to provide home insurance at the point of sale. Car dealerships have been closed, resulting in a 92% reduction in sales through our RightRater app.

- Cash Flow. We have several clients who are unbanked or who for some reason prefer to pay their premiums by walking into a retail location. With these stores closed, 31% of those premiums are not paid.

- Tax season is when business explodes for us. Our most important three months are February,March, and April, which is when people spend their tax refunds. This year, tax refunds are being spent on survival rather than on new cars and houses.

- Business lines. 94% of our businesses are personal lines. I suspect that agencies with a more balanced division between personal and commercial are better off in these conditions.

Lesson No.2: The world provides clues ... if you listen.

My son had been traveling in Asia when the outbreak started. He was worried about him, so he was paying close attention to world events. That external focus helped me stay ahead of government regulations. At the end of February, long before any stay-at-home orders, we had already started our team transition. By March 13, no one was coming to the office.

Lesson No.3: Technology makes you more agile.

The reason we were able to lead the change is that we had already invested in technology. We swapped our landlines for a phone system and automated quotes and renewals with an AI-powered system a few years ago. We had also already integrated text messaging, electronic signatures, electronic policy delivery, and paperless file storage. Thanks to our technological position, working at home was a simple part of the equation. All we needed was a few more laptops and we were good to go.

Lesson No.4: Keeping your Guardians is the top priority.

Great talent is essential and the game-changer that will help us recover quickly. Fortunately, we have been able to keep most of our team working. On April 1, we implemented a 10% permit and at the end of April, we moved to a 20% permit. Payroll is our biggest expense, and these small adjustments made a big difference to our balance sheet.

Lesson No.5: There is no such thing as too much communication.

When it comes to telecommuting a model, communication is more essential than ever. We started a daily registration video call every morning. I was surprised to see that these calls lasted an hour or more. When measuring body language, it was not difficult to see that there was a lot of fear. Now I include an emotional checkup asking "Is everyone okay?" and allowing time for people to share their feelings. Most of us have never been through something like this.In addition to the daily equipment check, I started calling individual employees and sending a reassurance video message to my team every Friday.

Lesson No.6: Simple gestures can have a big impact.

When you have to stop working with your team, it's easy to think that you should cut all team expenses as well, but that may not be the best approach. In our case, we realized that we had a lot of equipment in the office, destined for sponsorships. We decided to use that team to have goodie bags delivered to all team members along with a note letting them know we were thinking of them. This small expense generated a major morale lift.

Seeing that, we decided to do something else. The following week, we sent each employee a $ 50Amazon gift card. The total expense was $ 3,000. It seems like a lot to spend right now, but it is a small investment to help preserve my equipment, which I see as my company's most important asset. This small gesture changed the energy of our company. It was as if they suddenly realized that everything would be fine.

Lesson No.7: Chatbots work.

We deployed a chatbot to serve customers on our website in June 2019. During this pandemic, our chatbot (known as Insurbot) saved us. It appears and offers guidance each time a visitor comes to our site. Most visitors commit to it and can self-serve. "Talk to humans" is always an option, but surprisingly few choose it. At this point, I honestly can't imagine life without our InsurBot. While our revenue has dropped, our call volume has been consistent.Many policyholders are looking for payment agreements, and our InsurBot has taken care of them.

Lesson No.8: Cash is King.

Going into this, he had more capital available than he believed he really needed. Now I know that even with so much capital, I could not cover my payroll for four months with a fraction of my usual income. The lesson: Save more than you think you will need. As we start to see a rebound, we know this could happen again in the fall or winter. My goal is to accumulate enough money in the summer to cover at least two months of payroll.

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