Why did so many organizations default to “wash your hands” as the first message they shared with their policyholders during the coronavirus pandemic? Fear, confusion and a general feeling of not knowing what to do, while also feeling like “we must do something and fast,” drove this communication strategy.
In the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak, proactive communication as we know it has changed and has forced us to pivot our strategies to support policyholders in new ways. It is imperative that the insurance industry sends the right messages to policyholders at the right time, which starts with recognizing that each has unique needs and sensitivities during uncertain times.
Here are four things to keep in mind for future proactive communications plan:
1) If you want to demonstrate to policyholders exactly how you are there for them, tell them. Your messages will provide much-needed reassurance and remind customers of the value you offer. Several companies told their customers how their workforce was working from home but still available to provide assistance, or announced the suspension of billing to help their customers. These are important things for policyholders to know—tell them directly so they don’t have to assume.
2) Set a strategy and guardrails to keep policyholders informed. Timeliness X Meaningfulness = Value Added Communication. This simple equation can help you create your strategy. Determining the speed at which you can send a message, such as whether you send a message within an hour or you need days, and then multiplying it by the meaningfulness of the message can help decide if it is worthwhile, useful and ultimately valuable to the recipient.
3) Challenge your organization to be the best it can be. Companies always strive to be socially responsible, especially when there is a crisis. If you stand for a cause, communicate it. If employee actions make a positive difference in their community, share it.
Most companies are hesitant to send the wrong message at the wrong time, but you don’t need to be silent. Just be conscientious about the appropriateness of your communications. “Wash your hands” is a faint and inconsequential message compared to a message about a company’s philanthropic support for pandemic relief.
4) Response is everything. Customers need their insurance carriers in a crisis, so we must respond faster, better and clearer. Being flexible, pivoting the messaging when necessary and preparing for different situations will help ensure you have a communication plan designed to handle many different scenarios.
It’s important to remember that proactive communication in a time of crisis needs to be rooted in understanding your customer base and being responsive to their needs. Your response to policyholders goes a long way in helping people put their lives and businesses back together after a loss. We as an industry will get through any crises that come, just don’t forget to wash your hands, rinse and repeat.
Jim McKeown is vice president, customer experience and mobility at Selective Insurance Company of America. He leads the charge on meeting each customer’s unique needs during their ever-changing journey aiming to exceed customer expectations when interacting with Selective.