How to Support Your Life & Health Insurance Agency in a Remote Environment
This last year has certainly been one for the books. It’s been an opportunity to learn and adjust—and that’s even more true for the insurance industry.
Before, many insurance agencies relied on in-person gatherings for renewal meetings, lead generation, marketing, etc. However, when COVID-19 erupted, changes were made. I contacted a few people in the industry to see how their agencies and businesses adjusted to a remote atmosphere and the lessons they’ve learned.
Let's meet the interviewees:
How do/did you manage your time while also being at home/remote?
We encouraged everyone to develop a routine, get dressed, and treat working from home as they would being in the office.
I really tried to keep things as close to normal as possible. For instance, we'd eat breakfast as a family; then, I'd be at my desk at 8 am. However, my wife also worked from home, so sharing an office could be a minor inconvenience—typically during phone calls or Zoom meetings. My daughter was six years old at the time and really liked having me home. During the lunch hour, we'd all eat together and maybe play in the yard for a few minutes.
Overall, time management involved some self-discipline, but I'd try really hard to shut down at 4:30, just like I was in the office. It didn't always work out that way, but it felt like work is over; now it's time for family.
My day is mostly driven by meetings, so I have to schedule blocks of time to get stuff done during business hours. I try to maintain regular work hours. So, at the end of the day, I do my best to turn off my computer and spend the evening with my family.
SHRM shared that 75% of respondents said “Work/Life Balance” was the reason they looked for flexible work. Other reasons include family, time savings, commuting stress, cost savings, and avoiding office distractions.
How has your communication with clients changed?
During COVID-19, we moved to Zoom meetings because we could not meet face-to-face. It actually worked with most clients, but our meetings lasted longer. Of course, we still talk to them over the phone, but we use texting and emails more now. Working with an older age group, they still like the hands-on, personal touch. COVID-19 has forced the older generation to be more tech-savvy!
We also use more Automated Workflows in AgencyBloc. We still snail mail a hand-signed birthday card to each client, and they LOVE IT! We get calls and emails thanking us.
Throughout 2020, we were taking clients by appointment only and have recently gone back to accepting walk-ins. In the fall of last year, we leveraged Zoom to conduct our “face-to-face” Medicare meetings with clients. Our goal was to keep the same customer experience our clients have grown to expect from us.
Our company had already been testing out some remote and hybrid office/home-based schedules. At the beginning of the lockdown, we were able to transition our team to fully remote quickly. We had already been communicating with clients via phone, email, support tickets, webinars, newsletters, blogs, and blasts, so those communication channels didn’t change. The biggest changes we did see included:
- In-person meetings changed to Zoom or Microsoft Teams
- WAPCon, our annual 500+ live conference, changed to a virtual conference
- In-person supply requests changed to online ordering and no contact drive up fulfillment
Communication is essential in an industry like life and health insurance. Your clients view you as their partner, so they need communication to ensure they have the support they need.
Sometimes, you have to introduce technology to help you boost your client relationships and ensure you’re giving them all they need. Want to learn more about using technology to build better relationships with your clients? Check out our on-demand webinar, Building Better Client Relationships with AgencyBloc.
Do/did you work “normal business hours,” or do/did you work flexible hours?
I really stuck to the same schedule as normal business hours. That worked best for my family and me.
We kept our normal business hours, but we were also VERY flexible, and we seemed to work on weekends and evenings much more during COVID-19.
For the most part, our company maintained normal business hours so we could continue to meet our customers' expectations. Now, that being said, a few members of our team were able to have a more flexible schedule to meet the needs of their families.
One report shared that 60% of workers felt COVID-19 affected their work-life balance between March and June 2020. Likewise, the average workweek in the USA was at 41.5 hours for full-time employees.
How do you manage company communication?
We used AgencyBloc to track all activities and tasks as well as all client communication.
We have structured weekly meetings via Zoom and include an agenda to keep everyone organized. Meeting on Zoom has allowed us to “see” each other despite being in separate locations, which gave us a stronger feeling of being connected. Our main goal internally is to keep everyone communicating and closing the loop so we can continue to provide our agents and clients with the best service possible.
We use Slack extensively for communication. We have channels for each team, every project, and lots of ad-hoc 1:1 conversations. We’ve also been able to capture some of the in-office banter virtually in a “fun” channel.
To keep you on track regardless of where you’re working, ensure you have technology that helps you remember what to do. AgencyBloc’s Activities help you stay ahead of the game by allowing you to automate communications internally and externally to keep everyone in the know and ready to go.
What adjustments to your company will you keep going forward?
We ended up switching phone systems recently to one that is more robust and has a better mobile app. Previously, it was only our marketing team using Slack, but we brought most of the office onto it during the lockdown, and we still use it quite a bit.
Everyone is working a day or two at home. We are finding we all need to be in the office, but during slower times, we can take turns working at home one or two days per week.
Based on our business needs, and dependent on the position, we will be able to sustain a more flexible workforce with remote or hybrid schedules for a lot of our team and departments. We have set up our new workspace to have drop downs and shared desks with docking stations, and everyone in our company utilizes a laptop.
PWC reported that “Less than one in five executives say they want to return to the office as it was pre-pandemic. The rest are grappling with how widely to extend remote work options.“ They also noted that there is no consensus on the optimal balance of workdays at home vs. in the office. It comes down to this question: what works for your agency and your team?
Have you adopted any new technology or tools to assist you while remote?
Fortunately, we were pretty much paperless when COVID-19 began and used AgencyBloc as our CRM. With seven of us working in seven different places, AgencyBloc saved us with the ability to time-stamp when information was updated in our system. We all could see every activity, send workflows, and call clients in a timely manner because of AgencyBloc.
Our team utilizes a variety of systems to communicate with each other and our clients. Email, Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and phone all play a role in our day-to-day communications among staff members. We also invested heavily in an Online Quoting and Enrollment tool for the agents in our downline.
Shortly after going fully remote, we migrated to a more user-friendly and efficient VOIP phone system. We had already been using Slack, but obviously, the adoption and volume of activity and collaboration climbed significantly.
Is your technology affording you the flexibility you need to correspond with your team, support your clients, and keep you organized? If you’re looking for a new way to manage your life and health insurance agency, then an industry-specific agency management system (AMS) may be for you. Learn how AgencyBloc can support your needs from onboarding to ongoing with The AgencyBloc Experience.
Your advice to fellow remote workers.
When you're remote, you MUST learn how to use your software! For some people, this feels overwhelming, and I get it, but you can't expect someone to walk over to your desk to show you how to do something, where to click, and so on. Take a few minutes and click the buttons to see what they do!
While working remotely, I think it is very important to document your time with exactly what you are doing and what you have accomplished. Not only is it good for your employer, but for yourself knowing how you spend your time. COVID-19 has taught us to appreciate our time and each other.
As someone who has maintained a hybrid schedule for over a decade, I believe that keeping a consistent schedule is of utmost importance. It is difficult to maintain a good work/life balance if you don't know when to turn off the computer and transition to your home life.
We encourage our team members who are working from home to try and keep work separate from home life. We suggest they spend lunch doing normal activities or taking a walk rather than sitting on the couch, doing chores they would otherwise do in the evening, or staying connected to their work. Maintaining a healthy distinction between work & personal responsibilities seems to alleviate the fatigue that can come from working remotely.
If possible, try to maintain a “work” schedule and routine in order to maintain a healthy work/life balance. I think it’s important to also rely on asynchronous communication (email, etc.) instead of filling up schedules with meetings. Our default is to schedule a meeting for everything, but one person can take the lead and draft an idea/concept/plan, and others can review/contribute without requiring a meeting.
My six tips are:
- Invest in the best router and internet speed you can afford.
- Set up boundaries for your work and home life whenever possible.
- Stick to a schedule.
- Take your breaks and lunches outside of the office.
- Shift to a standing/counter-height desk setup, if possible, so you can stand during meetings/throughout the day.
- Make time for human connection, virtual or in-person.
What did you learn over the last year that you’re applying to your business today? How can you run your agency more efficiently and effectively by implementing these lessons?
Going remote can be a transition, and it should be a time for your entire team to have open communication about what is working, where issues are occurring, and how people are feeling.
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