As uncertainty from COVID-19 continues to spread around the globe, businesses of all kinds are in uncharted territory and facing new challenges including forced closures, prolonged declines in business and supply chain disruptions.
Independent insurance agents have an important role to play in supporting business clients beyond talking with them about coverages and claims. By proactively engaging clients in conversations, agents can strengthen retention and deepen relationships, demonstrating their support with helpful tips and information at a time when they may need it most.
Here are five tips agents can share with business owners to provide value in these conversations:
1) Communicate consistently and accurately. Employers are looked to as a highly trusted source for coronavirus information, according to a recent report from Edelman Intelligence. In fact, 63% of survey respondents stated they would like their employer to share information about the pandemic at least daily.
Business owners should communicate consistently and clearly with key stakeholders about the actions they’re taking to protect employees, customers and partners, as well as how they’re addressing operational challenges. It’s crucial, however, that employers defer to trusted experts, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for guidance on how to act.
2) Protect on-site and remote workers. For many, essential employees are still working on-site and employers have a responsibility to ensure they’re safe. Further, as many businesses undergo shifts in staffing, many workers experience changes in tasks and responsibilities.
Business owners should ensure these employees have the necessary resources and training to protect themselves and others, and ensure they’re capable and qualified to perform any newly assigned tasks. This could apply to situations ranging from a waiter serving as a delivery driver to having an office worker operating the cardboard bailing machine.
Protecting remote workers is an important consideration, too, as more and more businesses rely on working from home to maintain operations. Employers should regularly check in with employees, providing resources for remote workspaces to be as much like in-office environments as possible and encouraging healthy behaviors like taking regular walks or implementing ergonomic tips for home workspaces.
3) Mitigate risks at unoccupied or idled properties. Many businesses have shut their doors for the time being, but unoccupied buildings or job sites can still pose significant risks for fire, water damage, freezing, vandalism, mold, crime, vagrant issues, weather-related risks and property theft.
Business owners should take time to assess the impacts of curtailed or shutdown operations on their processes and consider what must be done to minimize property and equipment damage. They should also notify relevant local authorities, as well as property insurance agents and carriers, of the property’s status. By following these steps, businesses can greatly reduce the risk of loss while their doors are closed.
4) Revisit business continuity plans and consider unexpected vulnerabilities. Business continuity plans are critical to continuing operations when disaster strikes.
Clients who didn’t have a plan in place prior to the current challenge should be thinking about how they can be ready in the future. Others may be identifying new risks they never thought about before.
Many businesses plan for what ifs, such as what if my building is destroyed by fire? Or what if an executive has a severe illness and cannot work for a year? These are important considerations, but the best plans go further and include items like: what if schools close and my employees have nowhere to take their children? What if half of my workforce is sick at the same time or what if my backup facility is also impacted?
Business owners can use this time to document the things they wish were incorporated in their plans as they deal with rapid changes in operations from the coronavirus outbreak. For some, it may not be feasible to update or develop plans right now; however, their notes will provide valuable insights when they have an opportunity to do so later.
Another important what if for business owners to consider right now is what if our current cybersecurity program is compromised by more workers working remotely? Make no mistake—cybercriminals are looking for opportunities to exploit this crisis. This is one item that shouldn’t wait for later. Agents can help clients work securely by sharing examples of recent scam techniques and best practices for defending against them.
5) Understand your insurance policies, including what’s covered and what’s not. Many business policies won’t cover events like floods, earthquakes or pandemics.
Recent events are a good reminder that it’s important to talk through scenarios where coverage would and wouldn’t be triggered. This can help reinforce how business owners can address gaps with thorough business continuity and disaster plans.
Peter McMurtrie is president of P&C Commercial Lines at Nationwide.