3 days ago Hurricane Sandy, the most destructive storm to ever hit the Northeast Coast of the United States, made landfall.
As I write this 56 Americans have lost their lives, 6 million are without power, hundreds have lost their homes and I expect hundreds of thousands will be filing insurance claims.
Now is the moment of truth for thousands of insurance agents. It is an opportunity for agents and the carriers they sell for to deliver on the promise to rebuild, repair, and restore.
I thought it would be helpful to put together a few ideas to help agents get through this situation. It’s the least I can do.
9 Ways For Insurance Agents to Help Clients in a Catastrophe
1 – Broadcast an Automated Phone Message
There are many services out there that will allow you to record a message with your phone and blast it out to all the phone numbers on a spreadsheet that you upload. Hopefully you have access to these phone numbers.
Be honest and say something like this:
Hello, this is your insurance agent, John Doe. First – I sincerely hope your loved ones are safe and secure. I’m sending out this message to be sure you have my contact information and the phone number to our claims department. If you need to file a claim please call 1-555-555-5555. You can also reach me at the office at 555-555-5555 and on my personal cell at 555-555-5555“
I don’t have a specific company that I recommend for this type of service, but here are 3 that do provide automated message calling:
Even right now, in the heat of election season when people are probably already getting daily “robo-calls” telling them who to vote for, a kind message with helpful information like this will be very much appreciated.
Remember: The most important thing right now is for clients to feel that you care about them.
2 – Send an Email Blast
Use your email list to send a bulk message to your entire book of business just like the broadcasted phone message above.
Keep it brief and include your contact information and the contact information for the claims department. It might also be a good idea to include any other local resources like Red Cross Shelters or other local businesses offering other services that may be of use to your clients in need. (contractors, landscapers, etc)
Be honest and explain that you’re OVERWHELMED with claims and customer service right now but that you are truly dedicated to addressing every single client concern – regardless of how big or small!
3 – Post to Facebook and other Social Media
Nothing new here, just make sure you’re putting claims contact information out there in every possible location where people may be able to access it.
One thing I’ve witnessed over the past couple days is that people go to social media first to let all their relatives know they’re okay.
That means it’s also one of the first places they should be getting a message from their agent with information, direction, and of course reassurance.
4 – Forget About New Business (For Now)
I understand the insurance agency business and I know it’s all about sales.
Take my advice, the actions you take and the way you treat your existing clients over the next few weeks and months following this disaster can make or break your sales numbers over the next few years.
That way you treat your clients now will dictate whether or not you get referrals for the next 5 years!
5 – Set Appropriate Time Expectations
A great way to get a claim off to a bad start is by making promises your carriers and adjusters can’t live up to. I understand you want to promise the world to make people feel better, but you need to fight the urge to tell people what they want to hear and instead set proper expectations.
Get on the phone with your carriers and find out how long it is going to take for claims to start being taken care of.
One thing I’ve learned in years of doing business is that people are very understanding and forgiving when you’re open and honest with them. On the other hand, when people feel they’ve been lied to or misinformed they won’t stop talking until the whole neighborhood knows about it.
People buy insurance from agents because they expect you to help them know about benefits they may not otherwise have known of.
If one of your client’s policies enables them to an Additional Living Expense payment it’s possible the carrier isn’t going to go out of their way to let them know about it.
Make sure your clients know if their entitled to Additional Living Expense payments and any other benefits that may help them for the time being. This may apply to your renters insurance clients too.
7 – Recommend Damage Mitigation Measures
A lot of folks think once something is an insurance claim, they don’t have to worry about anything. Remind your clients that (most) property policies have a clause within them requiring the client to take reasonable steps to mitigate further damages to the property.
If there’s a hole in the roof, make sure they put a tarp on it.
I’m not making any guarantees, but my experience as a claims adjuster has shown me that insurance companies will be pretty lenient to reimburse costs incurred to mitigate damages but I’ve seen the same companies companies be very tough on claimants that didn’t take reasonable steps to prevent claims from becoming more expensive.
8 – Listen
I was a casualty claim adjuster in Albuquerque, NM when Hurricane Katrina happened. My claim office set up 2 emergency phones and we took phone calls from Katrina victims in 3 hour shifts around the clock for 3 months. I remember having some of the most heart-wrenching conversations of my life with people that I couldn’t do much for.
I learned very quickly that people want their problems to be heard almost as much as they want them to be solved.
Listen to your clients. Show them that you care.
9. Get Your Hands Dirty
It’s easy for me to say down here in Miami, but if your area was ravaged by Sandy get out there and become that agent that everyone in your neighborhood wants to talk about. Be a true helping hand!
Your community is talking to each other now more than ever before.
Help people get their lives back on track. Move some dirt. Plant some seeds. Throw away some rubble. Be the leader of rebuilding your community. Get out there and shake hands while you’re helping people back on their feet.
There might be a silver lining to this monster hurricane.
Your actions over the next few weeks and months will lead to sales, referrals, and renewals for the rest of your career as an insurance agent.