Initially, the most pressing need was to focus on health and related measures to flatten the curve: enabling physical distancing and enhancing hygiene protocols. Having to immediately transition to large-scale working from home and depending on technology for communication made doing business difficult.
This balancing act has continued – even under the more relaxed level 3 restrictions.
Striking a balance
I’ve been delighted to see how the industry has played its part in keeping the economy going, making sure our sector stays afloat and ensuring a positive client experience. The short-term insurance industry has also worked with the South African Insurance Association to put together plans to assist policyholders experiencing financial difficulty because of COVID-19.
How have we collectively done this?
Communication has been vital. The pandemic and lockdown restrictions did not only affect insurers, intermediaries, and clients but also our service providers and suppliers. The industry jumped into action to ensure contact was maintained – telephonically, via email and, of course, through the now-universal forms of virtual meeting technology.
The environment called for flexibility and pragmatism. Hence, we offered premium adjustments or discounts, allowed leniency with renewal terms, and provided cover and risk-management adjustments to support our clients. We also provided crucial business information and tips for customers to better navigate their way through the lockdown.
This is not business as usual!
Brokers are, of course, a critical cog in the customer-experience wheel. Supporting them adequately has been – and will always be – paramount to our success as an industry and we have done so during the pandemic through training, development, planning and research.
Together with our brokers, maintaining good customer experience during the lockdown has hinged on uninterrupted claims processes.
It has been uplifting to see insurers pitching in by adapting payment options for suppliers of goods and services such as motor repairers and plumbers to avoid delayed repairs and unsatisfied customers.
Suppliers have, on their part, been inspirational in tapping into their skills, resources and ability to deal with emergencies and demand, while also activating action plans to safeguard their employees. I’m particularly delighted that our industry has played its part in assisting small businesses as much as possible. This includes interim payments for work in progress, immediate settlements for motor repair jobs and expediting payments to help with cash flow.
During a global catastrophe such as the current pandemic, a responsible industry reaches out beyond its immediate priorities. It has been heart-warming to see that our sector has continued to assist communities via social-investment initiatives throughout the lockdown.
We have been heartened by the important work of the independent Solidarity Fund, which – with Hollard chair Adrian Enthoven as deputy chairperson – has worked unrelentingly to boost the national effort in the fight against the Sars-CoV-2 coronavirus.
The client at heart
The lockdown will have long-term ramifications. It is essential that we think out of the box to ensure business continuity for us, our brokers, and our customers.
As our customers’ lives, budgets and business operations start returning to normal, their insurance cover will need to reflect this reality.
No doubt we will retain some of the new ways of working we have adopted for the lockdown. But while the new world of work has compelled our industry to harness fresh tools and platforms, we should never lose sight of the very reason for our existence: our valued customers. – Nash Omar, Managing Director: Broker Markets, Hollard Insure
- This article was originally published by FAnews on 17 June 2020, and is reproduced here with kind permission