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A flooded business in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 2011.

Life Health > Running Your Business

Client Communication Before, During and After Natural Disasters

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What You Need to Know

  • At least 11 kinds of natural disasters could affect your ability to serve your clients.
  • Some, such as wildfires and hurricanes, tend to occur in the summer.
  • Are you ready?

Having the ability to communicate quickly and effectively with your clients should not be a want within this industry; it is an absolute need.

The role or if you will one of the basic commitments you make to your clients is to protect their financial well-being and if something is going to impact that, or your ability to track or communicate about that, you have an absolute obligation to notify them ASAP.

The Disasters

The CDC tracks 11 kinds of natural disasters in the U.S.: earthquakes, landslide/mudslide, volcanoes, extreme heat, floods, lightning, wildfires, tornadoes, increased by more than 89% from 1970 to 2010.

These are the places often hit hardest by climate related disasters and these are the people that you serve.

As their agent, you have been entrusted with protecting their family after they pass or protecting their retirement dreams for as long as they are alive.

Either way, these are weighty responsibilities that need to be taken seriously.

Your clients may be heavily impacted by the intensifying weather patterns across the U.S. and you need to be prepared to help them if the worst should occur.

Your Own Practice

The first thing to consider is that you need to protect your own operations if you are going to continue serving clients through a natural disaster.

Just like when the flight attendant instructs passengers to put on their own oxygen mask before assisting others in an emergency, agents have to think about how they will keep their office running if an evacuation is ordered.

Its times of crisis when the need for digital transformation becomes most apparent.

Agencies that have cloud-based management systems will be able to stay up and running even if the physical office is disrupted.

Once you’re on the cloud, communication is key to helping your clients before, during and after a climate crisis.

Disaster Response Planning

When you aren’t in the dangerous season, take a moment to think through the messages your clients will need when disaster is looming, and when it strikes.

What can clients do to safeguard themselves?

Should they have a bugout bag, drinkable water, or a backup generator for medical equipment?

These are preparations that need to be made in advance and you can help your clients consider the most likely scenarios.

Claims and Benefits

If you have life and annuity clients, you will be interacting with people during an extremely stressful time in their lives.

You may need to help a family claim the benefits that your client established when they were alive.

You may also need to help a client determine if their dreams are still viable after their retirement property was destroyed.

Your clients and their families will need a lot of communication, hand holding and accurate information to get through.

By preparing your own organization properly, you can guide clients through these challenging times.

Post-Disaster Messages

As soon as a natural disaster hits, you can immediately send emails from your smartphone alerting clients about community safety information, shelter locations and evacuation routes.

Clients will also need to know how to file a claim, what the next steps will be and have an expectation of the timelines to receive benefits.

Prewritten messages can be tailored with details for your specific needs and sent out via email, text or social media channels.

If you are directing people to your website for information, the website should be updated and easy to navigate.

A client portal can also help people file claims and connect with you directly.

Keep in mind that all materials should be mobile-friendly as your clients could lose access to their desktops/laptops and will likely be viewing them on their smartphones.

Goals

In times of crisis, one-on-one communication is not a realistic expectation.

Timely, relevant and accurate information is going to be appreciated by your clients more than anything.

If you have done the work in preparing your office to remain operational and you have communicated with the clients in the months leading up to the seasons when natural disasters are more likely to strike, you will earn your position as a trusted advisor in their life.

You are going to be with your clients through some very challenging times but leveraging technology can help you stay connected when they need you most.


Joel Zwicker (Photo: Agency Revolution)Joel Zwicker is the chief evangelist at Agency Revolution. He helps independent agencies with digital marketing, marketing automation and content marketing. For 11 years, he was an independent agent.

.. .. .. …. .. (Photo: Allison Bell/ALM)