We hope you had a chance to read Rising to the Challenge of the New Normal – Pt. 1 and found the information from Dina Buxton, director of communications and development at Crane Agency, to be helpful as you navigate this new normal.
In case you haven’t read part 1, Sarah Ratcliffe, vice president of agency and broker solutions at Applied, recently got together (via Zoom, of course) with three of your agency peers to discuss how their businesses have adapted and what advice they have for fellow agencies. In this three-part series, we’ll feature advice from one of the panelists from our webinar, Agency Roundtable: Our Digital Path Forward.
Next is Kerrie Koestner, vice president of employee development at FBinsure located in Middleboro, Massachusetts.
Sarah Ratcliffe: How has your business transitioned to a remote workforce?
Kerrie Koestner: We didn't have a lot of people who worked from home before this. I think there were only two people. When we transitioned our entire team to working remotely, we did it in a phased approach, which worked out really well. We started on a Sunday and by Wednesday, everybody had their equipment at home and was up and running. We were very fortunate to have the equipment, shared drives and other tools that allowed staff to access all the materials they needed from wherever they were working.
SR: How is your agency staying connected with customers while physically apart?
KK: We do have a lot of foot traffic in all 13 of our locations. So the first thing we did was put signs on our doors. Then, we posted on social media channels like Facebook and other outlets saying, “We're here, we're open for business. We're just not physically at our office.” We also sent out email blasts and even called customers to let them know what we were doing.
It all worked out really well for us. We were very fortunate to be able to get the word out to our community. After a few weeks of actually working from home, we’ve heard only positive feedback from our clients. They appreciate our management team allowing us to work from home and stay safe.
SR: Do you have any stories on how your staff has stayed in touch with each other, communicated in difficult customer situations or any other stories you'd like to share on ways your staff have navigated this new environment?
KK: In our commercial lines department, we’ve started doing Zoom meetings with our clients for renewal reviews since in-person meetings are no longer an option. We also use Zoom internally for all of our team meetings, which has been great.
Another tool we just brought on board is Slack, which is instant messaging. It’s been a great tool staff can use if they have a quick question and a place where we can share funny, lighthearted videos to boost morale.
During this time, we’ve really focused on trying to keep in touch with everybody. We do have some team members who live alone so coming into the office was the only social life they had. We are very mindful of these people and the management team has been scheduling more team meetings just to check in and see how everyone is doing.
SR: How do you see this pandemic evolving your book of business?
KK: When we look at it, this pandemic has changed so much about the way we do business. For instance, now we are having discussions with the ownership team about if we need 13 offices open, how can we be more efficient working from home and how can we round our current books of businesses more.
In Massachusetts, my agency is largely personal lines. In that respect, the pandemic has brought attention to what else could we do here to make positive impactful client experiences.
Then, like I mentioned earlier, with our salespeople in commercial lines using Zoom to have client meetings efficiently and the positive feedback we're getting from our clients, I think it's going to be a totally new way of doing business all around for us.
SR: What are you most hopeful for as we look ahead?
KK: I think at the end of the day, this crisis is going to make us a better, more efficient agency. Because of the pandemic, we’ve been able to provide more value and to educate our clients in different ways. COVID actually put us on a fast track for some things we were wanting to implement with clients. We had initially discussed these things during our strategic planning and with all that’s happened, the conversations ended up coming to fruition a lot faster than we thought. But I think it's better for everyone involved. I think once our clients get used to some these changes – like doing things online, being more digital and paperless – they’ll see how much more efficient they can be.
This situation has also shown us how to spread projects more evenly throughout our teams, which has increased our efficiency and allowed for more flexibility with our schedules. I’m looking forward to that continuing after this is all over with.
SR: Are there any specific technologies that we've provided to you that are helping and are there any other ways that we can help you?
KK: DocuSign has been huge for us. We wouldn't be able to operate the way we are right now if we didn’t have it.
Also, one of the things that we were slow to implement was our portal for Applied CSR24. Before this, we had a small portion of our commercial lines clients utilizing it for certificates. Now we’re planning to roll out the portal to all of our commercial lines department and then eventually to our personal lines team. So we're really excited about this tool and utilizing it to the fullest. I think it'll be a huge value-add for our clients moving forward.
SR: Are there any silver linings you’ve experienced during this time?
KK: On a personal level, I feel grateful to have the people that I have in my life. It can be easy to forget about that when you don't get to see them as much as you would normally.
I also feel a lot of gratitude towards the people that I work with. Even though we’re not in the office, there is still that camaraderie, which is kind of cool. I’m definitely reassured about the agency that I work for. The way we were able to adapt to this situation and the fact that management put everyone’s safety first, was very humbling and made me very happy of where I am in my organization.