By: Kris Hackney, executive vice president of Customer Experience, Applied Systems
With global attention on the COVID-19 outbreak, each day brings more uncertainty for businesses and our communities. To reduce loss and mitigate risk associated with potentially crippling situations, business continuity strategies are relevant for all types and sizes of businesses, including insurance agencies.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, having a disaster plan in place “will improve the likelihood that businesses and organizations will not only survive and recover themselves, but also help their neighbors and communities recover more quickly.” Instituting a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) potentially minimizes the negative impact to a business by supporting its operational agility and financial stability during an unexpected and often uncontrollable event of natural or manmade origin. It entails planning for the adoption of technology, tools and processes that enable an insurance agency to serve its customers at a time when they need it most. More specifically, a BCP allows a company’s management and employees to prepare and respond effectively, including safeguarding themselves, securing a physical location, protecting critical and sensitive customer data and continuing to service customers.
There is an abundance of information available to you regarding business continuity planning that, at times, can be overwhelming. Below are basic tips and possible scenarios to consider for your BCP that can help you operate during an emergency to reduce loss and mitigate risk at your business.
Step 1: Make a plan
- Consider possible threats to your business such as fire, hurricane, tornado, earthquake, server crash, data breach, theft, human error and pandemic.
- Determine how your business can and should respond to each threat listed. Identify specific situations that put plans in motion when you are facing a threat. Consider routine “scenario exercises” where you test your plan’s effectiveness and ensure it is routinely updated.
- Create a “no warning” plan for situations where you have no warning.
- Involve your team in creating and documenting your plan, and communicate any updates to the plan or situation at hand as they happen.
Step 2: Consider the role of technology
- Evaluate if your business is set up to manage operations remotely, and the technology required to do so.
- Consider hosting your management system and other applications in the cloud. Remote data centers provide optimal data protection and security. Convert paper files into electronic files when possible.
- Have one or more laptops set up to access your management system remotely.
- Consider purchasing a wireless hotspot to connect to the internet through your cell phone provider should the internet go down.
- Have a plan for telephone calls to be re-routed in case your phone lines are down. A third-party call center or another office outside the disaster zone should take emergency calls.
Step 3: Protect your data
- If your applications are not cloud-hosted, take these actions to protect your data:
- Back up data daily and in multiple locations.
- Test backups regularly to ensure proper functionality.
Step 4: Create a communications plan
- Communicate to your customers about your ability to manage through these scenarios. Leverage your website, proactive outbound communications, and social media to reach your customers. Provide contact numbers and instructions for claims.
- Research and decide if text communication is right for your employees and customers. If so, collect cell phone numbers and look into mass texting options.
Being our customers’ partner in business continuity is our #1 priority. While the situation evolves, we understand you may need to manage your business operations remotely. Applied is supporting agencies and brokers around the world to manage their business remotely via the cloud and mobile apps, and supporting their ability to service customers 24/7 via online portals and apps. Our subsidiary, Indio, is also supporting customers by enabling them to manage the application process completely online, removing the paper and office-bound processes. And, IVANS is keeping insurers and agencies connected via download to make sure they stay informed on the latest policy information and claims details.
Applied’s mission is to enable millions of people around the world to safeguard and protect what matters most, and we are laser focused on maintaining that commitment to the industry. If there is anything we can help you with at this time, please do not hesitate to contact us today.