We all know 2020 presented major challenges for insurance brokers. I discussed some of these challenges with Charles Callery, Regional VP for Lincoln Financial, and Michael Pelligrino, Lincoln Financial sales representative in the video, “Getting Creative in the Time of Covid-19.”
So much has changed this year – but adapting is an important part of success.
Heading into Thanksgiving we would look forward to The DBL Center’s Annual Holiday Party the first week in December. Of course, we aren’t holding the event this year due to the pandemic.
A few months ago, I would have connected with brokers, carriers, and colleagues at our summer gathering. I’d been planning a get-together in Manhattan, instead of one of our usual Long Island venues. The location would have made it easier for those out of state to join in the fun and would have given my employees and favorite people a unique and memorable experience. (Needless to say, we had to cancel.)
We all understand that insurance is a commodity. We aren’t selling DBL or TDB or PFML, specifically. We are selling a white glove experience. Stellar customer service. State of the art technology.
Aside from reduced premium rates and better, more flexible coverage, it’s the service that sets private disability insurance apart from the state plans.
And with that service comes perks for your best customers. Holiday parties. Sporting event or concert tickets. It’s all a part of the industry and it helps us build better relationships to grow loyal customers. After all, (you’ve heard it before) it’s not what you earn, it’s what you keep.
Insurance brokers can hold meetings by phone or video. We can host virtual Zoom gatherings, and even virtual Zoom happy hours to create a more casual environment for connection. But it’s still not the same as taking your favorite customers out for drinks, meeting courtside at a Knicks game, or sharing dinner overlooking the Long Island Sound.
As a father, I’ve watched my boys struggle with virtual schooling and being unable to see their classmates since March. Fortunately, they just went back full time. But we are all counting the days, knowing nothing is permanent as Long Island communities around us shift to “Yellow” status and… who knows what happens after that?
The teachers try their hardest to deliver a quality education online. But they are missing that personal connection. A hand on a shoulder. The nuances of facial expressions. Easy, convenient interaction without lag or household distractions.
Insurance brokers, right now, face the same challenges as teachers in forging a personal connection with our customers. And, in the world of consultative selling, we do act as educators for our customers, imparting the information they need to make the best decisions for their businesses.
So what can we do to create personal connections when we can’t meet face-to-face?
Things are different right now. And not in a good way. But we have to keep going, just as teachers have done, to do our jobs and build success.
If you haven’t already done so, the pandemic is a good time to establish a strong digital marketing campaign. It’s more important than ever to deliver value to our customers and the business owners in our region.
Leverage email – Send touch-base emails more frequently than usual to stay front-of-mind. Mass emails that share helpful tips and information, as well as personalized emails to foster connections, are quick, easy, and effective to stay in touch with your customers.
Email generates $38 of revenue for every $1 spent, according to a Hubspot survey. Nearly 4 billion people use email daily. And 35% of online marketers send their customers 3 to 5 emails per week. So don’t worry about reaching out too often. You don’t want to be forgotten amidst all the other distractions your customers face every day.
Pick up the phone – As early as April 2020, just a month into the pandemic, workers started suffering from Zoom fatigue, which occurs due to the exhaustion of constant visual engagement forced by video calls. Instead of taking the extra time and energy to schedule a call and email the other party a conference link, pick up the phone for an old-fashioned voice conversation.
This impromptu, casual conference can help create a better rapport, offering more time and energy for personal conversation. You might find a phone call is more efficient and, ironically, more personal and heartfelt, than a Zoom call initiated for the sole purpose of conducting specific business.
Of course, arm yourself with the latest industry news to help customers understand how claims have changed in the time of Covid. As much as the personal connection, business owners will appreciate this type of valuable information and will rely on you as a trusted resource – which can result in future sales and upsells.
Plan for the future – We won’t always be on lockdown. The pandemic will end someday, especially with news of a vaccine on the horizon.
Whether you’re on Zoom calls, the phone, or via email or social media, engage your customers with positive thinking and something to look forward to. Start talking about future plans for traveling when the pandemic ends. Even if you’re joking about putting meetings on the calendar for late 2021, you’re helping your customers see a light at the end of the tunnel.
This summer, as stores and restaurants started re-opening under strict guidelines, I kept saying, “Stop talking about a second wave.” I’m still saying it. Be realistic, but think positively, too. It’s all we’ve got right now as a community.
Are these virtual connections enough to keep customers and grow your book of business? Time will tell. What’s working for you? Drop me a line and let me know your thoughts.
by Michael Cohen
We’re living in unprecedented times and federal, state, and local governments are looking for ways to adapt. Seeking a balance between regulations and budget, legislation has sought to help Americans keep their businesses open and their employees paid through the vast challenges 2020 has brought us.
Most business owners in New York, along with insurance brokers and other professionals, have concerns about keeping our economy going. Increasing NY disability insurance rates for statutory DBL coverage might be the last thing on people’s minds. But it’s something those of us in the insurance industry should be thinking about.
NY State Disability Insurance benefits, or DBL, has not increased in decades. With a maximum payout of $170 per week, NYS DBL lags behind New Jersey TDB benefits, and even Massachusetts and Connecticut. The latter two states recently introduced statutory paid leave for non-work related illness or injury.
The last thing New York business owners would want to face right now is a premium increase for any benefits. Many New York City landmarks have shuttered as a result of recent events, and mom-and-pop shops in Main Street areas across upstate and downstate New York have closed permanently or struggle to stay alive.
But an increase in NY state disability insurance pay-outs could yield benefits to employers in the long run, especially as we face uncertainty related to the pandemic. Will DBL claims rise if we see a second wave of the virus? Will the government be so quick to offer Federal aid packages the second time around? Will businesses, already hard hit by recent events, be able to mount a second comeback? No one knows the answers to these questions.
When the first wave of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, hit, the Federal government intervened with the Families First Act. The FFA alleviated much of the pressure on insurance carriers who otherwise would have faced unprecedented levels of claims because of COVID-19.
Here at The DBL Center, we also sprung to action. Our COVID-19 pre-screening software helped eliminate confusion regarding NY State Disability Insurance claims and FFA claims.
If the Federal government had not signed the FFA to help Americans with income replacement if they became ill from COVID-19 or had to care for family members with the virus, disability insurance carriers and brokers may have experienced a situation similar to what P&C brokers in the northeast experienced in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Business owners and the insurance industry, alike, were not set up to respond to an emergency of this scale. Our country was not prepared; but perhaps there is no effective way to prepare for a global pandemic.
Many people reading this, even our brokers who are tapped into the industry, don’t realize that the governor initially had plans to increase DBL benefits when he introduced Paid Family Leave. A short-term disability insurance increase was in the original legislation, but removed before the Paid Family Leave Act was signed.
Increasing NY state disability insurance benefits will help business owners retain high-quality talent, which is a challenge in any economy. New York City, especially, is suffering from “brain drain,” or young, smart, and affluent couples leaving the city. Reports say five percent of Manhattan’s population fled the city between March 1 and May 1 at the height of the pandemic. Further, 69% of tech and finance employees said they would leave New York if they could work from home.
This exodus began years prior to the pandemic because of real estate prices, but was exacerbated this spring.
No, increased DBL may not tip the scales, but having peace-of-mind that you can survive on your disability insurance benefits should you become ill with coronavirus could give many New Yorkers one less reason to leave. Couple that with the most robust PFL policy in the nation, and New York becomes a more family-friendly state.
It’s a good time to make legislation changes right now. New Yorkers have become accustomed to rapid change and increased benefits, including the $600 Federal boost in unemployment benefits.
As always, because it is a shared benefit, DBL represents one way business owners can provide added value to their top employees at a small cost.
Until the time comes that NY State disability insurance benefits rise, business owners can purchase private disability insurance in New York. DBL Center brokers can offer their customers increased benefits through enriched DBL, white-glove service, and faster, more flexible payouts.
What do you think? Is it time for NY to increase their disability insurance benefits?
In an attempt to keep the economy moving and provide Americans with the financial relief they need during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal government has introduced the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act.”
Beginning April 2, this act provides emergency paid sick leave benefits to employees unable to work for a variety of reasons. Employees may be eligible for paid leave if they are unable to work because they are:
Employers with fewer than 500 employees must provide two weeks’ worth of paid sick leave. Employers will receive tax credits to offset these costs, hopefully minimizing the financial impact on their business.
Employees are also entitled to up to 80 hours of paid sick time at 2/3 the regular rate of pay, and an additional 10 weeks of paid family leave if the employee is unable to work because they need to care for a child whose school or childcare provider is closed for reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s important to note that this paid leave coverage is from the federal government and is not related to NYS PFL.
The legislation also ensures that employees do not have to use any other paid time off in lieu of federal paid leave benefits. Employers also cannot mandate that employees find replacement workers.
Until April 2 when Families First goes into action, New York State has stepped in to help employees with COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave, compensated in many cases through New York State DBL and PFL benefits. To help employees stay afloat during this challenging time, the state has waived the five-day waiting period before PFL benefits kick in.
Employers with fewer than 10 workers and less than $1 million in annual net income will still rely on DBL and PFL benefits for their employees, paid concurrently for a combined $2,884.62.
Those with 10 or fewer employees but net revenue exceeding $1 million, or employers with 11 to 99 employees must provide workers with at least 5 days paid sick leave, not counting any PTO they have accrued in the past. After that, employees can make a concurrent PFL / DBL claim for paid leave from Day 6 onward.
Businesses with 100+ employees and public employers are fully responsible for full salary continuation for a minimum of 14 days.
PFL programs only pay out for the intended duration of the quarantine period, which is 14 days. However, if the employee has not exhausted their paid leave from New York State by April 2, those benefits will end regardless. Employees will have to file a federal claim to begin collecting benefits again, this time under the Families First Act. Benefits under the Families First Act apply to companies with fewer than 500 employees.
It is not easy balancing the economic well-being of our nation with the health and safety of our residents. It’s a challenge many business owners grapple with, as well, during this trying time.
In addition to lowering the federal interest rate, the U.S. government has introduced – or is in the process of introducing — legislation that will help small and large businesses stay afloat while we fight the pandemic with social distancing and isolation.
Last week, the Federal Reserve introduced the Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility, a program that lends money to banks to purchase assets from money market funds. Lending will not affect bank capital requirements, according to finance site Investopedia.
The government also introduced the Term Asset-Backed Security Loan Facility (TALF), enabling the purchase of asset-backed securities backed by auto loans, student loans, and small business loans to unfreeze credit and help stabilize the economy throughout the pandemic and during the economic recovery period afterwards. These measures will run until September 30, 2020, unless they are extended at that time.
The Fed is also working on a Main Street Business Lending Program. We will reveal details as they become available.
Ultimately, avenues will be available to keep large and small businesses afloat and give them access to the funds they need through loans and tax credits. Here at DBL Center, we will do our best to keep you apprised of changing legislation as it pertains to our brokers and their customers.
Stay safe, stay healthy, and know that the DBL Center is here, as always, to serve as your back-office staff as we get through these trying times together – remotely.