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The Connected Business of Insurance

Your #1 Priority When Disaster Strikes

May 28, 2015

by Greg Shiple

Hurricane season is right around the corner, running from June 1 through November 30, 2015. Is your business prepared? Recently I’ve read a lot about how 2014 was the least expensive year for natural catastrophes, resulting in 38% fewer insured losses than the 10 year average. I decided to dig into the research around recent catastrophes to see if disasters really are impacting the insurance industry less. If you look at the chart at below from Sigma World Insurance Database, you’ll see that in the last 30 years, total insured catastrophe losses have more than DOUBLED. And not only that, there is minimal trend towards a decrease or increase in insured losses over the years; each year varies dramatically.

Insured Catastrophe Losses

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Despite the optimism of the press, catastrophic events can happen anytime, anywhere. And you can never be too prepared for the unexpected, be it bad weather, a data breach or civil and economic unrest. A recent Travelers study found that 48% of small businesses are operating without any type of business continuity plan, yet 95% indicated they felt prepared. After the recent earthquakes in Nepal, tornados in the Midwestern United States, and massive snow storms in the Northeastern United States at the end of 2014, it’s difficult to imagine a business not having some type of crisis plan. When disaster strikes, people are your number one priority – whether it’s your family, friends, employees or clients – and their safety is the first thing that crosses your mind. From a business perspective, your ability to service your clients is a critical factor – positioning you not just as a trusted advisor, but a loyal partner in a time of need. The business of insurance is about protecting property and assets, and with any business continuity plan, being able to reach customers and be easily accessible is imperative.

Why a Business Continuity Plan Is Essential

Even if you aren’t in an area prone to extreme weather, the increasing connectivity and complexity of growing organizations means that being prepared is more critical than ever. Consider the fact that when disaster strikes, small businesses can lose $3,000 a day, and larger companies $10,000. If that isn’t enough to convince you, close to 75% of businesses without a business continuity plan fail within three years according to the book, “Blindsided: A Manager’s Guide to Catastrophic Incidents in the Workplace.

What You Can Do to Make Clients a Priority During a Disaster

A business continuity plan ensures that you’ll be there for your clients regardless of the situation, and can mean the difference between being ready on day one versus several weeks later (too late, I might add).

Two things you can do to make sure you can effectively service your clients when they need you most:

  1. Protect your data
    One of the best ways to protect your clients’ assets in the event of a disaster is to protect the data in your management system. With cloud technology, you and your staff can access client information from any location using Internet-enabled devices. Employees can retrieve the data they need and return customer calls and emails. Embracing the latest technology provides a solid foundation for your business continuity strategy.
  2. Open the channels of communication
    Proactively communicating with clients is crucial before, during and after a disaster. Once a disaster strikes, restoring lines of communication as quickly as possible is central to being able to support your community as they assess the damage to their homes and businesses. Consider implementing multiple communication channels including:

    • Social Media
      Communicate with your clients on their preferred social channels:

      • If you know of an impending weather event or emergency, post tips on how your clients can get prepared; what items to stock up on, where to go for safety, etc.
      • Tell clients that you are available for assistance and provide them with the ways they can contact you (phone number, email, self-service portal, etc.)
      • Advise clients that you are proactively reaching out to assist them
    • Phone/Email/Text Message
      Actively reach out to clients who might be in distress. Using your management system data, identify clients directly impacted by the disaster and connect with them to show your compassion and concern.
    • Customer Self-Service/Mobile Device Access
      During serious weather- or infrastructure-related events, your clients may be on-the-go to avoid a disaster and/or may have been evacuated. If this is the case, the ability to access your website via a mobile application can be extremely useful. An online customer portal can keep the lines of communication open with self-service capabilities, allowing clients to access their policy information and contact your agency through a 24/7 call center.

Protecting the assets of your clients is the reason you’re in business. And when the unexpected happens, your clients rely on you to be there when they need you most. With a business continuity plan in place, you safeguard not only your own assets and operations against any threat, but ultimately those of your clients.

Greg Shiple, Sr. VP of Support at Applied SystemsGregory Shiple, AIS, senior vice president of support, heads the Applied division servicing clients’ technical support needs, support operations, and client retention in the United States, Canada and the UK. Shiple began his Applied career as a programmer in 1986 and was responsible for developing a variety of leading Applied solutions.

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