You’ve heard it time and time again, being an insurance agent is all about the relationships you build with clients. Work remote capabilities are becoming more popular for recruiting new employees and more necessary as a pandemic hits our nation. But how do you maintain top customer service while offering a work remote program for your employees?
Luckily for insurance agencies, most of the equipment and software you need to stay customer-first is already suited for working remotely. You can access your agency management system, document management system, e-signature solution, calling capability, and emails from any device these days, as long as you have a secure internet connection.
So let’s dive right into the essential items you need to make a clear and successful work remote program for your insurance agency:
First, make a list of all the work functions and processes that happen to keep your agency running. Go back to your original job descriptions to help remember essential day-to-day tasks for each position. For each task, indicate if it can be done remotely. You can quickly determine what can be done remotely by asking yourself these two simple questions:
- “If I am a customer, would it matter to me where my agent is located while he/she helps me with this task right now?”
- “Can that staff member complete this task successfully outside of the office (i.e. he/she has access to secure and reliable technology needed for this task)?”
If the task cannot be done remotely, clearly state that in your work remote policy from the beginning. This will help eliminate any future requests or inquiries about working from home. As you are developing your policy, keep your Business Continuity Plan in mind in case of any potential disruptions. If a nationwide quarantine occurs, for example, you will want to have a flexible enough policy with technology back up plans to prevent any critical disruptions to your agency.
In your work remote policy, write out your availability expectations. Don’t just assume employees will work between 9 AM to 5 PM. This is especially important for hourly employees. When working from home, it is easy to continue past 5 PM to complete a project. Indicate clear check-in and check-out procedures and overtime policies to keep your hourly staff in check.
Layout specific expectations on response time. Define how quickly you expect an employee to respond remotely. Include the specific modes of communication you want them to use as well: email, phone, text, or chat.
Describe how you will measure your remote employees’ productivity. Have your employees provide a daily list of items completed and/or still in progress at the end of a work shift. Make sure you are checking in on progress towards customer service needs, essential projects, and organizational goals instead of just hours completed. This creates a sense of accountability and responsibility even when you aren’t present. And develop regularly scheduled check-ins via video-conference so you can view the employee’s workspace as well.
Key questions to ask during your check-ins:
- What challenges are you experiencing today?
- Provide an update on Project X?
- What is your estimated time to completion for project X?
- Does anyone have any additional questions or items to discuss?
Example communication / video-conference solutions:
Expectations of the quantity of work completed, quality of work conducted, professionalism, responsiveness, etc. should remain the same for all employees whether they work from home or in the office. As a result, have clear parameters for employee discipline if expectations are not met even when working remotely. This holds especially true if the employee is not used to working from home but special circumstances require it.
Luckily, the software needed to provide strong virtual customer service is already accessible from any device as long as the employee has secure internet. For insurance agencies, these five items are essential to provide quality service for clients:
- Agency Management System – Most management systems have the ability for you to install the software on a laptop that an employee can use while working from home. There are also browser versions and often, an app to access from your mobile device. Check with your agency management provider for more information.
- Document Management – Move essential files off of your desktop and into the cloud. There are a ton of secure cloud-based document management systems out there to choose from.
- E-Signature Solutions – You don’t have to wait to get a handwritten signature these days. Many solutions allow for online secure/legally binding signatures that carriers regularly accept. Below are a few solutions we recommend for our agents:
- Telephone – What type of telephones you want your staff to use is entirely at your discretion. Popular VoIP providers include:
- Email – Most agencies use either Microsoft 365 or Gmail. You can access your emails from any laptop, tablet, or mobile phone using these platforms. In addition, Mircosoft Outlook integrates directly into agency management systems, like Applied Epic, which makes sending and recording emails to clients even easier.
Outline in your work remote policy what an employee should do if they experience any technical difficulties. What type of communication procedures should they follow, such as contacting managers to let them know of an issue? What is the plan of action to get it resolved? It is key to set up expectations of immediate communication if an issue arises that prevents an employee from accessing what they need remotely.
All of your employees should be made aware and trained on how to handle Personally Identifiable Information (PII) both inside and outside of the office. As an insurance agent, we are given a ton of PII that we must protect for our clients. PII can include driver’s license number, Social Security number, credit card number, email address, policy numbers, passwords, you name it.
Make certain to educate remote employees on basic security policies. This includes things like secure passwords, logging off when away from their devices, and avoiding public WiFi. All work remote employees need to have password-protected internet at a minimum. No employee should enter PII on a public internet network, such as a cafe, library, or airport. The same goes when conducting customer service calls outside of the office. You never want to provide someone’s credit card information out loud in a public space for anyone to write down and use later.
For all computers – in and out of the office – ensure that all devices have security measures in place. This includes firewalls, anti-virus software, encryption, and other forms of software protection both on your employees’ devices and your servers. Here is a handy article on how to secure remote workers for your agency.
Lastly, have a clear policy on what expenses you will cover working remotely. Just like with any travel reimbursement, state clearly in your policy what you will allow as a work expense and not allow. If employees are using their personal laptops for work, indicate if you will provide reimbursement for their equipment. Typically, agencies pay for or provide any software you require for security or productivity reasons. Always clarify in writing all expenses and limits you’ll provide to both in-office and remote workers.
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