Remote working – Hints, tips and practical solutions

30 April 2020
While many of us are working remotely as a matter of necessity, it’s quite likely our current experience will impact the way we work going forward.

Stationery on a deskLessons learned now could prove invaluable to all of us and help you build a more robust and sustainable model for both now and in the future.

Where to start

As we celebrated the start of a new decade less than 4 months ago, I’m sure none of us could have predicted by spring we would be facing weeks of lockdown. And for most of us, a completely new discipline of working solely from home.

I thought it’d be useful to share some best practice, hints and tips from people in our industry who have spent many years honing their skills and expertise when working remotely.

Client segmentation

A good place to start is segmenting your client bank.You can target different groups or individuals with different messages by different mediums. There are many ways to do this. If you predominately have protection clients, you might split the client bank into those who have a mortgage, are self-employed or are Limited Company Directors. You might want to split by lifestyle. Clients who are married, have children or are divorced. Another segment might be clients who have been declined due to a medical condition. This could prove invaluable as illness specific covers, such as Royal London’s Diabetes Life Cover, enter the protection market.

Stick to the positives

For many people this is a very worrying time. They’re out of their comfort zone. Their world has been turned upside down. They have more time to dwell on things. Which often isn’t ideal when there’s an abundance of bad news about. 

It sounds obvious, but when contacting clients, do your best to keep it positive and practical.

I know it sounds obvious, but when contacting clients, do your best to keep it positive and practical. Don’t be a reporter or amplifier of bad news. Unless there is something practical you want the client to do in light of that news.

You can use relevant external content, provided you’ve checked the accuracy and have permission to use it. This could be helpful with general market updates where broad generic commentary from an industry expert is suitable. Keep this to a minimum though, as primarily your clients want to hear from you.

Have a bit of structure

It’s a good idea to create structure in your day.Consider getting up and starting work at the same time you would be going into the office. If you’re doing video calls make sure you dress appropriately. As well as looking better, it’s likely to put you in the right mind-set to work. Which can be one of the biggest hurdles to overcome in our current working climate.

Set a start time, lunch break and a time you’re going to finish. Getting up and travelling into the office, while a bit of a bind at times, creates a clear distinction between what’s work time and what isn’t. As soon as home becomes your place of work, that clear distinction is removed and the urge to ‘just do that one last thing’ can sometimes see you still sitting there an hour later.

Research technology

How IT savvy are your clients and how effectively could you upskill those who aren’t? There’s a lot of video conferencing tools out there, and many of them are quite simple for a client to use.

There’s a lot of video conferencing tools out there, and many of them are quite simple for a client to use.

It’s still okay to use telephone and letter if that’s what the client would prefer. But if you can offer easy online alternatives for your client it could add real value to your interaction.

We’ve all heard a lot of comments in the trade press that the legacy of Coronavirus could mean a substantial shift in working practices, even after the threat has passed. Time invested now in developing your web communication functionality may reap benefits not just during this crisis, but permanently.

Practice, practice, practice!

For the meeting itself my top tip is to practice, practice, practice! If you’re not familiar with online meetings, it’s likely to feel a bit foreign initially, so practicing will help. When deciding what software to use, spend some time on the provider’s site. They’ll have lots of helpful hints and tips.

For the meeting itself my top tip is to practice, practice, practice!

If your clients are unfamiliar with video conferencing software, consider building five minutes into the beginning of the call to ensure they’re comfortable with most of the functionality. Run through things like web chat, how to mute or unmute yourself, how to identify you are on mute, how to change the volume, how to turn on and off the webcam and how to maximise the screen. This is particularly relevant if you’re going to share your screen. You don’t want the client peering at a minimised box only a quarter the size of their screen.

And remember…

Make sure the dog is fed & walked, outside or in another room. Otherwise you know it’s going to start barking as soon as your call begins. 

Have a contingency plan. People are likely to understand that these are strange times and much of what we’re doing is new to everyone. Explain at outset what will happen if the technology fails, how you’ll try to fix it and how long you’ll try to fix it for. No client wants to sit and wait for 20 minutes with occasional texts saying, ‘nearly there’.

Having a telephone option as a back-up is very important. You might not want to continue the meeting by telephone, but it allows you to discuss alternative arrangements. Make sure you have their number to hand and that they also have their mobile phone with them.

Having a telephone option as a back-up is very important. You might not want to continue the meeting by telephone, but it allows you to discuss alternative arrangements.

Before the call, ensure you have any documents you want to share with the client loaded and sitting at the bottom of your screen. The meeting will run much more smoothly if you’re not keeping clients waiting while you search online.

Stop regularly to ask the client a question. Even if this is just to check that the sound and video quality is OK, that they’re not missing parts of what you say, and that the experience is working for them.

While sharing your screen can be a great way to illustrate things to clients, you also need to keep them focused on what you’re saying. Share your screen when necessary but don’t have an endless string of documents popping up because they’ll read those rather than listening to you.

There’s lots of support from providers to help you through this new and often unfamiliar working regime. At Royal London, we have a dedicated support page with tools, tips and guidance to help you with working remotely. For more information on how we can help get in touch with your usual Royal London contact.

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About the author

Shelley Read

Senior Protection Development and Technical Manager

Shelley has worked in financial services for over 25 years, starting her career in the Mortgage world and then from 2008 in protection field Face to Face Sales. Shelley was originally with Bright Grey and Scottish Provident and latterly representing Royal London in the West Midlands and Warwickshire area. Shelley moved to her current team in July 2017 and now covers all of the UK. Shelley is involved in developing adviser facing content, presenting, writing articles and commenting for the press. Shelley therefore has an in-depth knowledge of the mortgage and protection market and her strengths have been training and coaching advisers to recommend protection solutions to their clients and delivering this coaching in an easy to understand and simple way. Shelley’s area of expertise also includes Family Protection and Business Protection. Shelley hosts a monthly book club in Sutton Coldfield and also enjoys attending various cookery courses both at home and abroad to improve her cooking skills and her love of entertaining friends and family.

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The Royal London Mutual Insurance Society Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. The firm is on the Financial Services Register, registration number 117672. It provides life assurance and pensions. Registered in England and Wales number 99064. Registered office: 55 Gracechurch Street, London, EC3V 0RL.