This week has seen Canadian officials take further steps to address the evolving pandemic situation. As of March 17, the Government of Canada reported that the country had 569 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The same day, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a state of emergency in the province and called the situation “unprecedented,” while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada would be shutting its borders to most foreign travellers.
Read more: Coronavirus Canada: the latest developments
Some businesses reacted to COVID-19 quickly, such as Leibel Insurance Group, which temporarily suspended walk-in traffic as a precautionary measure on March 16. Moreover, over 90% of its staff will be working from home effective March 23.
It was important for the brokerage to implement safety measures to protect the safety of its clients and staff, though leadership has spent a long time putting steps in place over recent years to be able to respond quickly should a crisis arise.
“We’ve had over 50% of our staff already working from home remotely and we’ve been doing it for years so we have all the technology, and balances and checks in place to be able to roll this out a lot smoother and easier than probably most companies or brokerages,” said Chad Leibel (pictured above), CEO of Leibel Insurance Group. “Almost everything that a customer could come in here to do – make a payment, get a pink card, substitute vehicle – can be done through email or phone, and we didn’t want to expose our staff or the customers to any type of risk unnecessarily.”
The CEO noted that customer service levels will not be impacted by the measures because of the brokerage’s fast response, and if customers want a face to face meeting, video conferencing can be arranged, as well as the traditional methods of email or phone communication that continue to be available.
“We felt that if we got in front of this early, we would avoid having an infection in our office possibly infecting a third or half our staff [who would then be] down for two or three weeks, [which would lead to] a lot of service issues as the phones wouldn’t be answered,” said Leibel.
Meanwhile, the response from customers to a mass message that the brokerage sent out about these measures has been overwhelmingly positive.
“When we initially sent that out, you expect some partial backlash because people think that maybe we’re overreacting,” said Travis Murray (pictured below), COO of Leibel Insurance Group, pointing to one doctor who is a client and said these were excellent steps, while other customers have thanked the brokerage for keeping its staff safe. “People don’t see it as a business hindrance because they know that we’ve been so digitally focused for so long that [it’s] essentially business as usual for them.”
Leibel staff are also very appreciative of the brokerage taking these steps amid a time of great uncertainty and fear.
“Once people realized that this is not just the flu, this is something different, there was a lot of anxiety. When you take a walk in, you are in a fairly confined space across from someone that you don’t know where they’ve been and you don’t know what they’ve potentially been exposed to,” said Rob Barros (pictured below), CTO and CCO of Leibel Insurance Group. “All of the staff were extremely appreciative that we took this step early.”
The brokerage has developed its contingency plans over the past five to 10 years, with other catastrophes in mind as well – from the building burning down to flooding or any other natural catastrophe, during which time brokers still need to be available to customers.
“We’ve been planning for years – in the event that if the Edmonton office goes down, then we can continue with operations through our Calgary office and through our remote brokers and vice versa,” said Barros. “There’s no downtime in the event that crisis strikes, and this is putting our plans into place and what we’re going through right now is a real life test.”
Besides responding to COVID-19 efficiently, an added perk of the brokerage’s remote work policy is that it provides the business flexibility in the hours that it can service clients, since staff are spread out across BC, eastern Canada, and Ontario. It also allows the brokerage to attract a bigger talent pool since leaders can hire people from a variety of regions and not just those in Edmonton or Calgary.
Added Leibel: “We’ve always told our brokers, ‘let’s not be reactive to our clients, we need to be proactive’ and this is just a case in point of us being proactive not only for our clients, but for our staff as well, which ultimately, at the end of the day, helped us win the Top Insurance Workplace [recognition with fewer than 99 employees].”