Baby It’s Been Cold Outside – What Insurers Should Learn from The Polar Vortex

Has anybody heard that it’s been cold outside?

In case you haven’t walked out the door these past few weeks, you may want to take a look at the TV, newspaper or Internet to see how bad these artic temperatures have been. Sure, relief is on the way, but the lingering toll will have a longer tail for individuals and businesses alike. Even those accustomed to frigid climes have found themselves prostrate in the face of sub-zero wind chills and snowfall totals measured in feet (rather than inches). A quick story on my own vortex experience...

When I came home one recent night, I found my wife freestyle-wrestling with our minivan. Both rear minivan doors decided it was a little too cold out for their liking. They relented by opening, but stubbornly refused to close. After the doors quickly dispatched me as well, we debated which outcome would be worse come morning – providing a welcome means of shelter for any animal in the area or having a dead car battery. After deciding neither option was palatable, I started the car and cranked the heat – only have a loud “ding” alert me to a gas gauge blinking with a yellow “E”. After a brief exchange with my wife on the joys of marriage (a blog for another day), I found myself en route to the gas station with a wonderful breeze swirling and two minivan doors doing nothing but solidifying their resolve. Fortunately, after running the heat for an hour, we were able to return the doors to their rightful resting place without further incident.

So why should personal and commercial property and casualty carriers pay attention to this? I am sure many people have similar stories to tell. Once in decade (or two), events such as the current deep freeze impact insurance buyers – creating a unique touch point and customer engagement opportunity for carriers and producers. When it is 90 degrees in July, most homeowners aren’t very worried about extended power outages due to an ice storm. And when the apple blossoms bloom, corporate risk managers / small business owners aren’t up at night worrying about frozen pipes their place of business. The time to tap into the psyche these events create is right now.

Savvy insurers, with the agility to respond quickly to changing events, can leverage situations like the deep freeze to distinguish themselves from the competition. Specifically, carriers should consider how events like the polar vortex can help them actively:

  • Differentiate their risk management knowledge and expertise;
  • Enhance and deepen existing relationships with insured’s and producers;
  • Cross sell / Upsell coverage enhancements.

How can property and casualty carriers effectively capitalize on the aforementioned? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Leverage outbound marketing outreach to for prevention and intervention: 
    • Personal lines carriers can e-mail safety tips for driving in bad weather, launch social campaigns on how to prevent ice dams, and warn customers of potential weather hazards. Some tips on preventing car doors from freezing would be welcome here...
    • Commercial lines carriers can send alerts on locations subject to adverse weather events, provide suggestions for preventing slips and falls, and best practices mitigating snow collapses. 
  • Educate customers and producers the wide array of value added capabilities that they may have at their disposal: 
    • Personal lines carriers can remind insured’s/agents about their road side assistance services or what to do in the event of a claim. 
    • Commercial lines carriers can remind risk managers / brokers of pertinent loss control services and latest loss prevention reports. 
  • Increase account penetration by presenting relevant coverage suggestions and offers that address specific exposures and hazards.
    • Personal lines carriers can push recommendations to insured’s/agents on umbrella coverage options or the advantages of their latest broad form property product. 
    • Commercial lines carriers can prompt brokers to consider whether their customers have adequate liability limits or business interruption coverage.

On the bright side, the first day of spring is only 68 days away. Carriers that want to differentiate themselves can’t wait that long respond to touch point opportunities like the Polar Vortex of 2014. Who knows, there might be another frigid spell right around the corner.