The novel coronavirus outbreak that began in the winter of 2020 has disrupted normal operations for millions of businesses. Although many states have designated insurance as an “essential business” not subject to mandatory in-person workforce reductions, agencies are still finding themselves in unfamiliar territory. Many of their current and prospective clients are closed, and social distancing guidelines discourage face-to-face meetings.
Agencies are increasingly turning to video conferencing as a substitute. Should your agency be one of them?
Video conferencing, in which two or more parties hold a virtual face-to-face conversation over a computer network, offers many benefits:
- It keeps communications open during a disaster. The coronavirus crisis is a prime example. Clients are prevented either by law enforcement or their own concerns from meeting in-person. The same could be true in the case of a hurricane, wildfire, blizzard, or other natural disasters. Video conferencing allows an agent to present proposals or hold routine client meetings during these times of crisis.
- Videoconferencing is efficient. All parties to the conversation can join without leaving their locations. This saves the time and cost of traveling, freeing up time for all concerned to address other priorities.
- It enables non-verbal communication. According to some reports, 93% of communication is non-verbal. Unlike telephone conference calls, video conferencing allows participants to see each other and pick up on facial expressions, lapses in attention, and physical gestures.
- The agency can meet with multiple people at once. If a client has multiple locations, the conference can include all of them. A client with one location can involve managers and employees from their own workstations. This can shorten the time needed to close a deal.
- It provides a personal touch that online sellers cannot match. Your competition is advertising savings from a short phone call with a stranger. Video conferencing lets the buyer look into the eyes of the insurance adviser. The video connection is likely to be more powerful.
- It de-emphasizes price and re-emphasizes risk management. A price can be recited in a few seconds on a phone call. A discussion of an organization’s unique loss exposures deserves more time and the opportunity for all parties to ask questions. When all can see each other, this conversation happens more naturally.
Agencies have a wide variety of software to choose from. Just a few of them are:
- FaceTime. FaceTime is pre-installed on Macintosh computers and iOS devices such as iPhones and iPads. It can accommodate up to 32 participants. However, parties at all ends must be using an Apple device.
- Zoom. Zoom provides high-definition audio and video for up to 1,000 participants. It includes built-in security, saves meeting recordings to the cloud, offers searchable text transcripts of the meeting, and enables file sharing, making it easy to transmit a PDF file of a proposal to the client.
- GoToMeeting. Unlike some of the others, GoToMeeting works well with tablets and phones, with apps for both Android and iOS. It enables an agent to share her computer screen, making slideshows easy to present. It costs $12 a month with an annual payment and allows up to 150 participants in a meeting.
If your agency is going to hold video conferences with prospective or current clients, it will want to put its best foot forward. Among the steps experts recommend:
- Arrive early to iron out technical problems
- Have proper lighting on yourself
- Position yourself in the center of the webcam
- Dress to impress
- Avoid typing during the meeting
- Make eye contact
- Do not eat during the meeting
- Minimize your movements
- Involve all participants in the meeting
- Mute your microphone when others speaking and at the meeting’s end
If you will be using a slideshow, some services such as GoToMeeting permit you to share your screen for the other participants. Other services, such as Skype, require you to upload the presentation. Either way, the agent should practice the presentation a few times before the meeting to grow comfortable with the controls.
Even after the coronavirus crisis passes, insurance agencies will find video conferencing to be an effective tool. It is efficient, cost-effective, easy, and personal. When used well, it can give an agency a competitive advantage over other agencies and direct writers.