Long before a new and deadly virus swept the world, predictions had already been circulating that the 2020s would be the dawn of a new era in remote working. Then, it was a product of the evolution of the workforce and coalescence of technology and possibility. Now, it’s a basic necessity. As infections spread, working from home has become a must-have in many businesses. As companies struggle to ramp up connectivity and efficiency, insurance agencies are also trying to climb this sometimes steep learning curve. And lessons learned in this crisis could be changing the future of the industry.
IoT and expanding personal networks have already made previously unimaginable levels of connectivity an everyday, take-for-granted sort of commodity. The same was happening in the business world, and it was only a matter of time before these tech advancements–and their benefits–crossed over and became mainstream. Of course, with employers and authorities concerned about employees’ health and safety in the time of COVID-19, the change has been hastened.
The struggle comes in the adjustments. Most of us can work our way through a video conferencing app or utilize a messaging platform to keep in touch with our team. But for insurance agents and adjusters, a large part of the job is done in person, interacting with clients in the office or in their environments. Contracts have to be signed, damage has to be assessed, inspections need to be made. And unlike most other things in life, catastrophes aren’t on hold right now. Natural disasters, fires, auto accidents––they’re still happening.
The key here is for agents and adjusters to grow into using new and already existing technologies to carry on serving clients and submitting claims. If done successfully, their efforts could spell a whole new normal for the industry.
Virtual claims handling was already on a growth track prior to COVID-19, and some companies were ahead of the curve. Adopting new technologies early has been a game changer for many. But one key part of the insurance professional’s arsenal is the ability to see and analyze property damage. Without being able to travel to the location in question, what is the adjuster’s recourse?
Using geotagging to get a client’s precise location, drones can snap detailed images of a damaged roof. With the help of online or chat reporting, self-inspection picture and video apps, or livestream interactive appraisals, clients can be coached through the claims process and submit the information needed to make a determination. All this pivotal information can then be integrated into an estimating platform and added to their claims file. Artificial intelligence (AI) drives this new tide of insurance work, but that doesn’t mean it has to be cold, sterile, and robotic.
Trained, specialized, and skilled workers will always be key to the insurance industry. These valuable professionals can use the varied tools at their disposal to lend the missing human element to the virtual claim. In light of all the changes ahead, the best advice right now is to be adaptable and creative. Hold virtual sales calls and client meetings, keeping the visual aspect of the client-agent relationship alive. Find ways to do the same things you always do, but in this new environment.
Insurance post-COVID-19 will follow in the path of many other businesses, with all aspects of daily work becoming more interconnected. Yet as real as this work world is, things can tend to feel very intangible for the employee that is used to the daily office routine. Thankfully, the insurance industry will always need people––the virtual realm can go far but it can’t replace the human factor. It’s undeniable though that advances in technology will positively impact customer experience and eventually will likely meet or exceed their service expectations.
Once this crisis has ended, we’ll be happy to get back to some old routines. But many will prefer the virtual environment, and remote working could increasingly become the norm. Regardless of what happens, in these uncertain times the top priority for agents, employers, and customers alike is maintaining connection and communication. As things get closer to our new normal, agencies should assess what they did and whether their efforts were successful. Going forward, these honest evaluations will enable companies and agents to be well-positioned for growth, development, and whatever else the future brings.
Agents will continue to grow personally and professionally during this already stressful time. Necessity demands that they serve clients in a new and different way, and those skills will stick with them after the pandemic has passed. What will likely emerge is a more resilient, well-rounded staff with a higher capacity for achievement. We could also see employers that are ready to be flexible when it comes to working arrangements. And in the end, the insurance industry could become better for it. At least that’s what we’re hoping for. If everyone plays their hand well, there’s no reason we can’t see this happen.