Working remotely webinar (30 mins)

Senior Intermediary Development and Technical Manager, Shelley Read, gives an insight into best practice when working remotely. You’ll get hints, tips and practical advice to help make things easier for you and your clients at this challenging time.

If you’re new to working remotely, our webinar will provide you with useful strategies to help you identify clients who will need your advice the most during this time, and give you tips on the best ways to communicate with them.

You’ll get advice on adapting your meeting processes and getting to grips with video calls, as well as different techniques to support remote conversations with your clients.

Shelley also discusses the range of online tools and business support that’s available from Royal London to help you keep your business on track.

Hello everyone and thanks for listening to our webinar today which is aimed at helping advisors identify best practice when working remotely.

While we all have to do this as a matter of necessity at present, it's quite likely this experience will impact the way we work going forward. So, lessons learned now could prove invaluable to all of us in the future.

My name’s Shelly Read and I'm Intermediary Development and Technical Manager here at Royal London. And I represent the protection side of our business.

In order to make it easier for everyone to follow, we've broken this webinar up into a number of categories which we'll deal with in turn. The first section is looking at an overall strategy to ensure you’re contacting the right clients, at the right time, and with the right message.

From there we'll move on to the call or meeting itself. We’ll look at pre-meeting, during the meeting, and then post meeting actions. We’ll cover off some miscellaneous points that just don't fit neatly elsewhere and we will finish off looking briefly at some of the functionality Royal London has to support you all as advisers on this journey.

So, while we hope this will provide you with some insight into best practice, please note there are no hard and fast rules around this. Some of the things we discuss will work for you and some won't. Nobody is suggesting you need to take every one of these processes on board to make a success of remote working. However, hearing the range of best practices can help you build a more robust and sustainable model for both now and in the future.

And here are our learning objectives for today's session. We hope you will have an improved understanding of working remotely and how you can continue to deliver really great quality advice. Have a good knowledge of the support available for your clients. And finally, have an understanding of the online solutions Royal London can provide. So, let's get started.

While most of us are coming to terms with a new way of working we hope to share some best practice from not only experts in this field but also colleagues and our advisers who have been honing their skills and learning what works and what doesn't work for a number of years. By hearing a range of best practices, we hope we can help you build a more robust and sustainable model now and in the future.

My first point is to segment your client bank so you can target different groups or individuals with different messages, delivered perhaps by different mediums. There are many ways to segment your client bank so it's important to keep a clear focus on what you are trying to achieve.

For example, if you predominantly have protection clients you might split the client bank into those who have a mortgage, are self-employed, are limited company directors, those who have children or are divorced. Or another segment might be those clients have been declined cover due to a medical condition. Imagine how useful this could have been, for example, when Royal London launched Diabetes Life Cover recently. So, segmenting your clients based on their situation, objectives and lifestyle might make it a lot easier to deliver a consistent message for the section of your client bank for whom it’s relevant.

Secondly to decide on what your message is going to be to each group. Remember, for many people this is a very worrying time. They are out of their comfort zone, their world has been turned upside down and they have more time to dwell on things which often isn't ideal when there's an abundance of bad news about. So try your best to keep it positive and practical. Don't be a reporter or amplify bad news unless there's something practical you want the client to do in light of that news.

And remember you can use relevant external content that you didn't create. Provided you've checked the accuracy and have permission to use it. This could be helpful for example with general market updates (where broad) to generate commentary from an industry expert, if suitable. Keep this to a minimum though, as primarily your clients want to hear from you.

I know it might sound pretty basic but consider writing a To Do list. I find it works best for me if I set a list of tasks at the start of each day that I'm highly likely to be able to finish.

Furthermore, my To Do actions are quite granular, single tasks that I can cross off once I’ve done them. In an environment where we're all worried about our ability to remain productive, evidence on the page or screen of what you've achieved already today may be a great way to keep you motivated. However, it may be that just now, despite your very best efforts you cannot achieve some of the tasks. You may not be able to contact a client or provider and there will still be some clients who prefer to wait for face-to-face contact. So, having a long list of actions aids productivity and allows you to swiftly move onto the next task.

I think it’s also a good idea to create structure in your day. Consider getting up and starting work at the same time you would if you were going into the office. Keep your routine as normal as possible.

If you're going to be doing video calls, make sure you dress appropriately. As well as looking better it's likely to put you in the right mindset for work which can be one of the biggest hurdles to overcome in our current working climate. Set a start time, set a lunch break and set a time you're going to finish. I've spoken to many advisers who regularly work from home and they tell me it's not the starting that's the problem, it's the stopping. Getting up and travelling into the office whilst 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 do that one last thing can sometimes see you still sitting there an hour later doing this one last other thing. So, have a clear start time, a set lunchtime and a set finishing time and really try to stick to these. You won’t always succeed, but you will more often than if you don't have this plan in place. With this in mind I think it's also important to plan the calls or meetings in the day, bearing in mind a few key points. Most people will struggle doing the same things all day for days on end. So you may want to select blocks of time for meetings and a block of time to do admin and other tasks.

You need time between meetings. So ensure when booking them you set a timeframe for the meeting and stick with it. You don't want to keep the next client waiting or to rush off one call onto another.

And most importantly take regular mini breaks. Perhaps five minutes every hour or so to get to stretch your legs grab a tea or coffee and a breath of fresh air even before you start again. Otherwise you can run the risk of burnout.

Ask yourself how I.T. savvy are the bulk of your client bank and how effectively could you upskill those who aren't. There are an awful lot of video conferencing tools out there and many of them are very simple for a client to set up on their P.C. or tablet. Often just by clicking on a link you've sent to them. Over the past few weeks I've received numerous calls and emails offering webinar video conferencing support generally with a free option available. This webinar isn't looking at which video conferencing tool is best, but a few that I'm aware of include Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, Zoom and also Skype for business. But it's still okay to use the telephone and letter if that's what the client would prefer. But if you can offer alternatives and make these easy for the client to access, it could add real value to the interaction. I know I’ve heard a lot of noise in the trade press that the legacy of coronavirus could be a substantial shift in working practice, even after the threat has passed. So, time invested now in developing your web communication functionality may reap benefits not just during the crisis but perhaps permanently.

So, make full use of the offers of help that are on offer in the market - that could be the offers of free video conferencing software I just mentioned, it could be guides, podcasts or webinars like this one. Or it might be tips from elsewhere in the industry which help you minimise the disruption to running your business now. Speak to the providers you deal with regularly to see what support they have to offer, and speak to your sales consultants too. It's quite likely they're still in contact with a number of other advisors in the same position as you and they’ll be hearing best practice and innovative ideas regularly. So they're a great source of information.

Many providers will have made tweaks to their rules and process to help advisors get through this period and some of these may have significant benefits to your client. So be sure to be aware of what’s available.

So, let's look now at preparing for a remote call or meeting with a client, especially if this is quite new to the adviser, client or indeed both. Try to keep your process as familiar as possible. So, if you issue a reminder the day before with a call or email then continue to do this. Issue an agenda in advance of the meeting stating the purpose of the meeting, the topics to be covered, asking the client if there's anything they’d specifically like added to the agenda and the length of time the meeting will last.

Do your best to stick to the meeting duration agreed for the sake of the client, yourself and the client of the next meeting.

With regard to preparing for the meeting itself my top tip is to practice, practice, practice. If you're not used to conducting your meetings online, it is likely to feel a bit foreign initially, so you do need to practice.

Maybe practice sending someone - a colleague, a spouse, maybe even a friendly client – a link to install the software in a detailed email with all the steps clearly spelled out. And then practice talking them through this on the phone. If you've decided to use a particular piece of software, spend some time on the provider’s site. There's likely to be a lot of helpful hints and tips there.

If any clients are unfamiliar with the video conferencing software, and many will be, consider building five minutes into the beginning of the call to ensure they're comfortable with most of the functionality they're likely to need. Run through things like web chat – it’s a great way to get a quick message to the other person if the audio drops out. How to mute/unmute yourself and how to identify if you're on mute. It may seem very obvious but trust me it does happen. How to change the volume, once again sounds really obvious, but if you're not that tech savvy it just may not be. How to turn on and off the webcam, if relevant. And how to maximize the screen - this is particularly relevant if you're going to share your screen. We don't want the client peering at a minimized box only a quarter of the size of the screen.

And just a few more practical tips: Make sure superfluous internet devices are switched off. You might even have to ask family members not to use the internet during video calls or at least not use things that use a lot of broadband width, like complex video games or streaming video. And make sure the dog is fed and walked and outside or in another room - otherwise you know it's going to start barking as soon as your call begins!

I think it's a good idea to 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. So, explain at the outset what will happen if the technology fails, how you're trying to fix it and how long you’re trying to fix it for. No client wants to sit and wait for 20 minutes with an occasional text saying “Nearly there, I’ve nearly fixed it”.

And what will happen if it can't be fixed. Having the telephone option as a backup I think is very important. So be sure the client has their mobile to hand. You might not want to continue the meeting by telephone, but it allows you to discuss alternative arrangements and make sure you have their mobile number ready and that they also have their mobile phone with them. Immediately before the call, ensure you have any documents etc that you want to share with the client uploaded and sitting as an item in the tray at the bottom of the screen. The meeting will run much more smoothly if you're not keeping clients waiting while you search online for things.

So, let's move on now to during the meeting.

I think it's now more important than ever to start with a chatty social conversation. The technology may be foreign, and people are worried, so not jumping straight to business immediately may help. Ask them what's concerning them, obviously how they are, family issues and how they're coping with isolation and lockdown. As we've seen on TV with more video conferences happening, it's important to think about position of the camera, what you're wearing and how you look. Ensuring you have the camera at eye level so you're not looking down on your clients and they're not looking up at you, maybe at an unflattering angle. You will have addressed this though during practice, practice, practice at the practice call stage. Use a headset if possible. It makes it easier to hear and be heard and leaves both hands free for typing. Have an email ready to go to the client. If you don't use it, it's easy enough to cancel after the meeting. But handy to have it set up and ready in case you need to send something quickly to the client during the call. Re-establish the agenda and the reason for the call early on and state what you want to cover.

Check anything they want to cover and approximately how long you expect the call to take. try to stick to this particularly if you have other scheduled calls in your diary for the day. You don't want to keep your next client waiting and even finishing one call with no time to prep for the next isn’t ideal.

Stop regularly to ask the client a question, even if it is just to check that the sound or video quality’s okay and they're not missing parts of what you say and generally that the experience is working for them.

In a recent best practice session on webinars I saw, the facilitator said it was optimal to ask the audience a question or give them a task every four minutes to keep them engaged. In a one-to-one or two-person call, that will probably happen organically, but be aware if you feel you've been talking to them for an extended period of time that you need to check you've not lost them.

While sharing your screen can be a great way to illustrate things to a client, you also need to keep them focused on what you're saying. So share your screen when necessary but don't have an endless string of documents popping up, because they'll read these rather than listening to you. Discuss any electronic forms you will be sending to the client for completion. This may be an ideal time to update client details via an online fact-find or maybe budget analysis. At the end of the meeting, thank your client for their time and confirm the date of the next meeting. Reconfirm what you and your client have agreed to do and set up the next meeting date, if one is required. Maybe look to ask for some feedback on this virtual meeting.

And finally now in this section, let's look at post meeting behaviour. Again, try to keep the process as familiar as possible. If you issue a summary of the meeting then continue to do that. Be clear about any actions that you will take post meeting and any actions you expect the client to undertake, with a clear timeframe for these things to be done. Ask how they found the virtual meeting experience and what improvements could be made if isolation lasts for a while, and you need to do this again before things get back to normal.

For clients who generally have issues with attending meetings in person, ask if they would like to conduct some or all of future meetings this way. Always diarise to chase up any e-documents, fact find budget analysis etc. that you've left with a client for completion and return. Take a chance with a post call contact to reassure your client that you are here to help and support them throughout this troubling time. And that you and the providers you work with have technological capability to keep supporting you for as long as this lasts.

And now for just a few more hints and tips we have gathered over the past few weeks that might further help your remote working. Do you have a generic message relevant to your whole or significant sections of your client bank? You could bulk email some or all of your clients. Perhaps you might finally have some time to create the company newsletter, or run a generic podcast or webinar for clients.

I always find it useful to have a loose script with key points highlighted to help me remember exactly what I want to say on the call. And this also helps me to deliver a consistent message. So perhaps it's worth considering this.

Other things to consider: change your phone message to be upbeat. Have a good news section on your website. Remind your clients that you are there for them every step of the way. And maybe consider creating a community on your website, with such things as a quiz or photo competition, which might be fun for some clients.

Finally then, let's look at how Royal London can support you as advisers during this unprecedented time. And a quick reminder of some of the features which will aid you in continuing to write new business remotely over the coming months.

Here is a list of just some of the support available from Royal London. And now a quick reminder on each of these.

So firstly, ‘send to client’. We know that clients can drop out of the process if you are waiting on them to provide any answers to questions often of a medical nature or to supply supplementary information. And this information can sometimes be of a very personal nature. So, we've created a ‘send to client’ option that gives you the choice to complete the application online yourself when you're talking to a client, or to start the application and then electronically send sections to them to complete in their own time. You might not be able to see your clients in person, but you can still submit protection business with us. Our ‘send to client’ function means you can send your online application securely, so the client can answer the underwriting questions themselves. And our tracker means you can see exactly where they are with their application.

CPD hubs. With training events being postponed it can be difficult for you to gain often much needed CPD hours. However, our online CPD hub could help you. You’ll find online resources such as a wide range of on demand webinars, to help you keep up to date with relevant topics and it’s fully accredited by the Chartered Institute of Securities and Investment and also the Chartered Insurance Institute.

Moving on now to Marketing Studio. I imagine at this time more than ever you will want to catch your client’s attention with the risks that are relevant to them and their families. How great would it be to be able to create your own marketing material, pulling together complex information from lots of different sources. Marketing Studio allows you to do exactly this and to package and present in a way that's not only personal to each client but also reflects the skills and expertise of your business. To make your life easier, we've built Marketing Studio for advisors on the Royal London website. Whatever your client needs, you can access powerful sales aids to deliver the detail, and also personalise risk reports to help you sell the story. And all at the touch of a button. What's more, you can build all the material with your own logo and contact details. So, if you're interested just visit our website. See how easy and simple Royal London can make marketing your business.

Pre-sales underwriting tool. You can use this tool to track things like BMI, family history, occupation, hazardous pursuits and also a range of medical conditions. And and you'll get an accurate, indicative decision for each cover type you choose.

Trust toolkit. With a number of tools to help you promote the financial benefits of trusts, as well as support you in finding the right type of trust for your client.

Online calculators. You don't have to meet your clients in person to use our range of calculators. Complete them together over the phone, or by sharing your screen online using something like Skype. In these uncertain times they could really help you with your client conversations. And could help them to realise just how important protection still is.

And finally, case managers and underwriters. What I want to highlight is functionality Royal London already had before this crisis and that means it will still be there once things return to normal. I just want to highlight that the Business Support Unit offer one-to-one support for advisers, help them navigate not only online functionality, but also provide assistance with using some of the more prominent whole of market sourcing systems. The Business Support Unit have worked remotely via video call for a number of years now, so this is business as usual for them.

Our underwriters are still available to help you discuss those more complex cases. Or of course our pre-sales underwriting tool I mentioned a few minutes ago works with the exact same underwriting philosophy with continuity of decisions for our advisors and clients.

That brings us to the end of content in our webinar. So, let us finally just review our learning objectives we set at the beginning. I'm confident you will now have an improved understanding of working remotely and how you can continue to deliver great quality advice. That you will have a good knowledge of the support available for your clients and have an understanding of the online solutions that Royal London can provide.

May I take this opportunity of thanking you for listening to our webinar today and I really hope you found a few useful hints and tips on working remotely. And finally, please remember at Royal London we are all still here for you, so you can be there for your clients. Thank you.

This website is intended for financial advisers only and shouldn't be relied upon by any other person. If you are not an adviser please visit royallondon.com.

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.