Whether it’s a pandemic we’ve never encountered before or the return of a disaster-prone season, when tragedy strikes a community, insurers play an important role in the response and recovery. 

Affected individuals, communities, and businesses rely on insurers to be on the financial frontline during challenging times. Whether it’s helping small businesses get back on their feet, individuals shoulder medical bills, or families rebuild their homes, insurers of all kinds should be prepared to respond to difficult situations with empathy and clarity during an emergency.

The role insurers play during a difficult time is a vital one

People often joke that insurance is something you buy but hope you never have to use - but sometimes there’s no alternative. 

During the spread of COVID-19, insurance can be a make-or-break product for many. Events are cancelling, travel is now postponed, individuals are getting sick, and businesses are closing, some of them for good. When the wildfires spread across Australia, thousands of homes and businesses burned, billions of animals perished, and many lost their lives. These are only two examples of emergencies - in 2020 alone.

Insurers provide individuals, communities, and businesses the financial support they desperately need when everything else goes south. For many, insurance can mean the difference between making it through a disaster financially, or losing everything. 

The way insurers respond is telling, and so is the way their people do

When challenges arise, the way insurers respond is incredibly important, both as companies and as individuals. Many insurance companies have demonstrated robust and timely responses to catastrophes through increased community efforts, relief efforts, and waiving fees and premiums where possible. 

One great example is Zurich’s response to the wildfire crisis in Australia earlier this year. The company rolled out a fantastic, multi-faceted relief effort, including: 

  • Donating over $100k in donations to relief efforts
  • Leveraging its own MindFIT program, as part of a collaboration with OnePath, to bring to customers the platform’s range of resources to help improve mental health through a detailed library of initiatives and tools
  • Issuing a two-month premium waiver for customers who were impacted by the fires, volunteered in fire-impacted regions, or were with emergency response teams

There are also notable examples of insurtechs responding in an equally positive way during the recent outbreak of coronavirus, including:

  • Zego a London-based insurtech covering flexible work insurance policies for delivery personnel and more, is offering two weeks worth of free insurance cover for customers being forced to self-isolate
  • Health insurtech Oscar Health is showing up for its members by launching a new COVID-19 testing center locator through its platform

While insurance companies will be scrutinized by their response within communities and the market, the employees picking up the phone are also on the hook. 

At a CatIQ Connect event in Toronto, president & CEO at PACICC Alister Campbell said, “The first 48 hours is probably what will define how a customer experience will be remembered by that customer. Did you answer the phone? Did you respond? Did you show up when you promised you would? Did the people who responded know what they were doing?”

When someone calls to say they’ve lost everything, insurance employees must be ready to handle every call with the calm, clarity, and attentiveness the situation demands. The way these communications are handled is just as important as how the insurance company responds. Mental health, physical health, and financial health can all be on the line when something terrible happens, and insurers should consider the implications of all of these when responding to everything from a nationwide event to a phone call.

Empathy is so vital during a disaster, especially on the financial frontlines

People purchase insurance for peace of mind, and it’s important insurers and their people deliver during difficult times whenever possible. Insurance is an incredibly vital part of financial wellbeing and preparedness, and there are certain ways insurers can help ease customers’ minds during a difficult time:

  • Temporarily waive fees and premiums or offer discounts for those most vulnerable and impacted customers or those on the frontlines of the emergency
  • Provide resources for those in need, including mental and emotional health resources, and distribute them through your channels
  • Check in on all employees, make sure their wellbeing is taken care of and that they’re prepared to respond to customers during this time
  • Be absolutely clear about what policies do and do not cover, now is not the time for ambiguity or industry jargon
  • Contribute to relief efforts in whatever way possible 
  • Connect with your community of employees, customers, and more and ensure responses are prepared and all digital systems can handle the impact

Nothing is more important than empathy and proactive assistance during difficult times. Insurers must rise to the occasion and remember their role is not simply being a financial first responder, but an understanding response to someone who may be having one of the worst days of their lives. Clear and digital systems should be available to help customers looking to manage their policies and get answers. Empathy and a human voice should be available to answer a difficult phone call.

If you have a topic you'd like us to cover, or you'd like to become a contributor, we'd love to hear from you! Please email our editorial team with an overview.