As storm one ripped through Knoxville, TN my family and I braced for what sounded like a freight train coming through our house. We were fortunate enough to be one of those with power and thanks to Todd Howell at wbir and the good ol’ Doppler readings we were able to target and plan to take cover if needed. The real time Doppler forecast predicted the golf ball hail immediately and the skies opened up to produce a blanket of hail at least an inch deep on our deck. My 3 year old daughter startled, scared, and curious said to my wife and me “Is that the tomato?” Laughing, I reached down to hug her and say no its ice falling from the sky and everything is fine. With power still in tact, the storm passed….and I became aware of what tomorrow would hold. Through the entire night from 5:30 till 2 am I had facebook and twitter open; when I returned to my laptop; I decided it was time to assess the damage. As I read the tweets and constant flourish of updates, I realized the social media component would serve as my tool to help John Bailey Company clients and others to get started with their claims and help answer questions. So I started at 8:38 pm during the storms.
Within a few minutes I had folks messaging, texting, calling, tweeting, and emailing me. Watching the Doppler I felt comfortable starting the claims process for them. In what seemed to be the second wave of hail, we again took cover as round 2 of hail and heavy tornadoes began. This time it was stronger and to be honest I was concerned a tornado would approach. We took cover in the closet with my wife, my daughter, a laptop, and 2 cell phones with Twitter/Facebook Apps, and the TV as loud as possible. My wife was worried that we would lose power and not know what was going on…then I remembered through AT&T Uverse we had a battery pack that would keep our laptop power and internet signal if power was lost. Within minutes, the TV turned off, the lights went out and we lost power. From there we reviewed WBIR and WVLT online, as well as facebook, and twitter on our phones. Getting updates by the second, the noise became worse as the hail pounded and shook the roof. As the storm passed, we became worried as our cell phones would not pick up a signal and would not dial out….but don’t forget we had facebook and twitter. Using those social media tools, we were able to check on loved ones by checking their updates. Again I started to collect claim info and work into the night using AMS360, a Vertafore insurance agency management system. Ten minutes later power was restored and the storm seemed to calm. From there moving forward the 3rd hail/tornado storm lost its steam..at least in my neighborhood and I continued to work into the night monitoring, noting, and preparing for the home, auto, and commercial insurance claims process the next day.
Because of the social media component our agency was able to service our clients, getting a few of them in early the next morning to have windshield repairs to cars that would otherwise have owners who would be without transportation. It also allowed for us to find out which homes needed immediate cleanup and restoration; as well as organize the claims process early and be ready to run a smooth ship in the morning. One of my facebook post asked if power and Comcast internet was running smooth at our office location. It was confirmed within 1 minute that it was working, and that was a big help because if it had not, then we may need a few laptops and internet access..maybe a satellite office. That night we had 11 car claims, and I think around 8 to 9 home claims. The next morning, we started answering the phones at 7:30 and had 150 claims turned in by noon. I lost track after that but currently we have around 500 claims.
The social community in Knoxville, TN excites me, because they are just so helpful. I received a text from a friend, who had a colleague with several inches of flood damage. I decided to post on facebook asking if a friend could borrow a generator to pump water out of a basement. Two local businesses Misty River Campground and Event Rentals by Rothchild offered to help, but we were a few minutes late; as they had found a solution. You could say that this time social media failed, but the reality was the size of the generators and manpower/truck needed to move the machines hindered our success. If only I had a truck…
In the days that followed, I had a few people contact me via direct message on twitter, one of these people was a friend of mine that needed some advice on how to handle an adjustor visit. Twitter also allowed me to retweet information about our insurance companies, possible roofers and dent repair folks located in the Knoxville area, and other insurance pointers.
I was so impressed with the use of Twitter by @TRV_Insurance @TheHartford these guys helped my agency with a few issues and efficiencies in the claims process….as I had questions about the most efficient way to submit different types of catastrophic claims. I also received a phone call from one Hartford’s Southeastern Head Catastrophic managers. She said they were monitoring twitter and asked if we needed anything. With all of this information at our fingertips, and real time contact to our clients…there was no way I was shutting down facebook and twitter; I left it on all day. The constant source of up to date information and communication was extremely beneficial to our agency.
The independent insurance agency model really came together with all of the new social media components. Furthermore, we had companies coming in our office and checking in to see how they could help. Safeco offered to bring us lunch and even bring some people to answer phones. State Auto Insurance Company and Central Insurance Companies were in our office that morning and Auto Owners called to ask us how our families were and what they could do to help.
Our agency focuses on clients who want to succeed, we want to help our client achieve their goals; social media is our new tool, and I think we truly understand it now. As claims continue to come in, it is apparent to our agency that personal communication with your insurance agent is the number one reason to select an independent insurance agency. These days personal communication seems to represent different things. It’s not about just phone calls anymore; it’s about accessibility, being helpful, and being yourself…
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