Agents should continue demonstrating high levels of agility and work with carriers to help commercial clients through the unique challenges this year will bring. Here are three ways to set your commercial clients up for success.
For many in the risk management industry, 2020 was challenging in ways no one could have imagined possible. In 2021, it's clear the uncertain environment will persist for the foreseeable future.
As a result, agents and brokers will need to continue to demonstrate high levels of agility and work with carriers to set their commercial clients up for success.
Independent agencies' and brokers' local business models make them ideally suited to anticipate and respond to their clients' needs. However, with today's operating realities creating a state of flux for many companies, greater focus is required to maintain close contact with clients and keep an eye out for their emerging risks.
Here are three ways to set you and your clients up for success:
1) Stay connected and relevant. It's no secret that the best way to be in a position to solve clients' problems is by keeping in touch with them regularly, especially in today's “low-touch" environment.
The key is creating relevant reasons to connect. This requires constant research and making connections between common challenges companies face. For example, offering insights such as, “I'm finding companies are concerned about…" or “I'm hearing lots of questions about…" when you contact clients will lead to more meaningful discussions about their potential needs.
If you haven't already, your agency must establish a digital presence. Create or enhance your agency's website and social media accounts and then connect with clients, taking the time to provide high-quality and informative content or use the materials many carriers provide for agency marketing use.
2) Identify and manage the risks of remote work and unoccupied offices. Subdued revenues and a prolonged pandemic recovery leave companies little room to take on risk. Health and safety considerations are paramount, so helping clients stay ahead of potential employment practices liability, workers compensation and general liability risks is critical.
Partnering with carriers to assess and mitigate these exposures makes sense, as they have deep expertise in all aspects of workplace and premises health and safety, including the latest guidance from federal, state and local authorities.
With remote work expected to continue for many employees, workers are reporting shoulder, back or wrist pain. That may lead to workers compensation claims. Agents and brokers can offer clients best practices to help their employees maintain a safe and productive home office space, such as:
- Equipping workspaces with ergonomic furniture, including a chair with proper back support.
- Positioning computer monitors at the appropriate height and distance to prevent neck and eye strain.
- Ensuring that electrical wires or other tripping hazards are safely out of the way.
One of the costliest risks for commercial properties is water damage. When buildings go unoccupied for extended periods, that potential increases. Teaming up with carriers that can facilitate access to practical loss control solutions, such as water sensors connected to a smartphone app, can help control the risk. Some colleges, for example, found these tools essential for monitoring facilities during their extended shutdowns, and they could offer valuable protection for other commercial properties that may face closings.
In some cases, businesses may decide to change part of their operations to maintain revenues, such as adopting e-commerce capabilities or offering new products or services. The combination of employees working at home and expanding online services may increase vulnerability to cyber threats. If a new product or service offerings is outside the company's core expertise—such as distilleries making hand sanitizer—current insurance coverages may not apply to a related loss.
Both situations present an opportunity for agents to partner with insurers in suggesting measures clients can take to reduce or adequately address potential risks.
3) Plan ahead for the risks of returning to work. Depending on the type of operation and location, companies will find themselves in various phases of cycling down, reopening or ramping up operations in the months ahead, so keeping on top of where they are in that journey will enable agents to offer appropriate risk control and insurance solutions.
Encourage clients to convene a return-to-work task force with diverse roles and perspectives. Clients should consult with technical and legal experts to create a detailed plan that can flex with emerging issues. That can make all the difference in a successful return to normal operations.
A thorough risk survey of the facility with the carrier may also help bring to light any safety or premises liability issues that may have resulted from a shutdown, such as postponed system inspections and maintenance.
The new tools and expertise gained during this difficult period will not only better position you as a trusted advisor for clients but will also serve your agency well for growing your book of business for the long term.
Ben Rockwell is division president of Chubb Middle Market.