Is it business as usual for brokers post-pandemic?
Although public health indicators have seemingly stabilized and provinces are doing away with COVID-19 restrictions, clients aren’t all rushing to change their policies mid-stream, say brokers.
In fact, many clients seem to be sticking to the policy changes they made during the pandemic.
“We’re not seeing the rush for people to make the changes to their policy, because even though there were restrictions in place, the majority of our commercial customers and the majority of our personal customers adapted to what they were [doing]…their coverages remain the same,” says Grek Kruk, principal at Sentinel Risk Insurance Group and director at Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario.
With summer right around the corner, commercial clients with seasonal hospitality businesses are preparing for an influx of customers—and an influx in revenue.
“The only thing we’re updating is our gross revenues, or anticipated gross revenues, for our commercial clients,” Kruk says.
The difference may lie in the type of community that policyholders reside in, suggests Brett McGregor, president and CEO of Guild Insurance Group.
“Rurally we’ve seen little impact lately on coverage changes due to a return to work,” writes McGregor in an email statement. “In more urban offices these changes to auto insurance especially are happening as customers return to work.”
“We saw most of our changes early in the pandemic, when customers made changes to their car insurance to reflect being off work or working remotely. We saw many of these customers changing their coverage back in the summer of 2020,” says McGregor, who is also past president & chair at Insurance Brokers Association of Manitoba.
Although clients are steadily streaming in to the office, Kruk notes that foot-traffic is not nearly as high as it was pre-pandemic.
“I think a lot of our clients realize that it was possible to do business electronically. Some do want to still have that face-to-face relationship with the broker, and we offer that. All our offices are open to the public again,” he says.
McGregor says Manitoban clients have been eager to interact with their brokers in-person.
“One of my biggest surprises during the pandemic was in June 2020 when things initially started to relax a bit in Manitoba, I was surprised at how many customers even then wanted to come back into the office,” he says. “We actually had to bring some staff back to the office then just to handle the influx.”
“Online/remote transactions are definitely more commonplace now than pre-COVID. We are working hard to serve customers in the way that they want to be served,” he adds.
On the employee side, work-from-home policies vary from brokerage to brokerage.
McGregor notes his brokerage is operating largely in person, with an optional work-from-home arrangement in the event that an employee needs to isolate.
“Some people have opted to come into the office, some people have opted to work from home. We’ve been as flexible as possible to allow people to work in the method that best suits their life,” says Kruk. “Part of it is gas prices—if you’ve got to drive 40 minutes to your office every day, over the course of a week, that’s going to cost an awful lot of money.”
In 2022, 40% of brokers offered after-hours customer service—a decline from 2020, where 44% of brokers responded affirmatively, according to Canadian Underwriter’s 2022 National Broker Survey.
It’s a matter of managing client expectations, Kruk suggests. “There’s always going to be clients that want to deal after hours.”
After a busy few days following the Ontario derecho that caused over 1,000 km of damage, Kruk notes the importance of brokers being there for their clients in emergency situations.
“We were fielding claim calls all weekend long,” he says of the storm. “That’s what we’re there for. That’s the promise we sell.”
“But if it’s a matter of a client calling because they’re car shopping on a Saturday, and they expect a broker to respond at 9 p.m. with a quote, well, you may or you may not get that service, because we can’t force our brokers to sit there and monitor their emails over the course of the weekend,” he adds. “One thing that the pandemic kind of taught everybody was the value of that work-life balance.”
Feature image by iStock.com/skynesher