When people we know die, we react in certain ways. COVID-19 and the pandemic has sharply altered what we can do, but we shouldn’t let this stop us from making an effort. From a personal and business standpoint, you want to be there for your clients in their time of need.
This isn’t specifically about people falling victim to the coronavirus. Hopefully the statistics are right, fatalities will be small and the number of people recovering will be great. This is about people dying from many causes. According to the CDC, 29,000 — 59,000 people die from the flu each year. People succumb to heart conditions. They have aggressive cancers. They get into auto accidents. Death touches many people’s lives.
(Related: I Can’t Fix It, but I Can Survive)
Why is it different now? Typically, there’s a funeral or memorial shortly afterwards. People visit the surviving family members. Funerals bring people together, although for sad reasons. Today, group gatherings are prohibited. Social distancing means we can’t hug and console them. You need to do something.
Here are some ideas. Obviously you will follow all recommended protocols during the pandemic.
- You still need to write. We would normally send sympathy cards. You can still do it. Use the same method as mailing out your monthly bills. Most agents and advisors keep a supply of sympathy cards at home.
- Send flowers. There should still be options to get this done in your area. Maybe through a local florist, but more likely delivered by Federal Express. Local florists are finding ways to cope. Ordering online is one option. Although you need to check local rules and you aren’t delivering them yourself, opening the door and picking up a package means human contact is minimized.
- Call. People have gravitated to texts and social media, but nothing (except face to face interaction) beats a personal phone call. You can sense their emotions, determining if it should be a long or short call.
- Call again. Immediately after the death, there’s an outpouring of support. Then everyone usually goes back to their old routines. The grieving survivor is forgotten. Call periodically afterwards, checking in.
- Offer to help. Yes, you want to minimize human contact, but you don’t want them to starve. If you are planning a supermarket run, ask if you can do their shopping for them. Leave everything outside their door. Call to let them know it’s there. Worry about settling up later, if ever.
- Charitable contributions. They might have a favorite charity. You’ve seen “In lieu of flowers…” in the obituary announcements. Send an online gift in the deceased’s memory. Word will get back to their survivors.
As an insurance professional, you deal with products that pay benefits when a person dies. There’s often a compelling need for the survivor to do different kinds of insurance business. Maybe it’s a friend, not a client. There’s a logical argument for laying low, assuming they will be in touch or will contact the insurance firm directly. You need to play a leading role.
- I’m here when you need me. You are ready to help, but aren’t rushing them. They need to deal with grief in their own time. You will act as an intermediary with the insurance company, to the extent possible.
- I’ve helped in these situations before. They might be friends and not yet clients. There’s still lots of paperwork to be navigated and titles to change on accounts. You will help them through it. During the stay at home period, this might be via Skype or Face Time, with them holding up statements. After the “all clear” has sounded, it might be in person. You want to avoid them thinking: “I had a problem. You were in a position to help. You didn’t offer.”
- They need help, just not sure what kind. This is where financial planning plays a major role. You might help with budgeting. They might prefer a monthly payment, like a paycheck. They might need help outside your professional expertise, like sorting clothing or downsizing. You might help, offer advice or refer them to other professionals.
Eventually, when life returns to normal, there will likely be a memorial service. If they don’t suggest it, you might bring people together, possibly at a restaurant or bar, to say a proper farewell to the deceased. Their survivors will remember who was there when the going was tough.
— Read What Can Insurance Agents Do During Stock Market Declines?, on ThinkAdvisor.
Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. He provides high-net-worth client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book, “Captivating the Wealthy Investor,” can be found on Amazon.