Back in February 2020, few Americans understood the impact the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 would have on our business and personal lives. When the March stay-at-home orders first went into place, we pictured a return to life as we knew it within six to eight weeks. Yet, here we are, three months later, and we’re still trying to understand what will come next.
But, for those of us who work in and around the disability insurance industry, there is some good news. We’ve learned a lot about people and how they are responding to and behaving during a pandemic – and so have other industries.
I learned during an online expert chat hosted by Jim McCarthy of Goldstar recently that the majority of regular concert and event goers still don’t want to attend an in-person event. Goldstar regularly surveys its “frequent event goers” and found their current return-readiness score was 43 out of 100. (A score of 50 means they might or might not attend.) It’s not surprising, however, that when you ask the same people: “How much are you looking forward to going out again?” the score moves up to 84.
It turns out that having people stay home gives them more time to think about how to protect themselves financially – especially when they track the unemployment statistics and consider the implications of income loss.
People Want to Buy Disability Insurance
One positive impact The Council for Disability Awareness found upon our industry is individual disability insurance carriers continue to report extremely strong sales. Bob Herum shared in his recent CDA blog post, The Coronavirus and the Individual Disability Income Market, that his company has more applications and more pending applications for IDI than ever before. And some agents reported to one CDA member that their calls are being readily returned and their clients are more engaged and willing to proceed.
We are seeing the same phenomenon with life insurance sales. Many people believe that “COVID-19 has become a catalyst for many people who put off [buying] . . . insurance.”
We all would agree that interest in buying disability coverage is a good thing for consumers. We know far too many stories about the financial devastation faced by people who needed to leave the workplace due to injuries or illnesses without the benefits of this insurance product.
So, how do we talk with people about disability insurance in the time of COVID-19?
Peter Sandman, a well-respected risk communication consultant, developed a framework for how to discuss risk. He coined an equation long ago that summarizes how people assess risk:
Risk = Hazard* + Outrage**
*Hazard: how much harm is the risk likely to do
**Outrage: how upset the risk is likely to make people
Dr. Sandman says that, most often when we speak with people about risks, there is an incredibly low correlation between a risk’s “hazard” and its “outrage.” During times like these, however – when hazard is high and outrage is also high – our focus is “crisis communication.” Essentially, we want to help appropriately upset people cope with serious risks with an approach of: “We’ll get through this together.”
We’ll Get Through This Together
During 2020, the recommendation from The CDA and its member companies as to how to talk about income protection products like disability insurance is to:
- Take Action.
- Provide Information.
- Give Support.
Take Action: Now is the time to check in with current and prospective clients. The income interruption they are witnessing across our country coupled with their heightened sense of both hazard and outrage makes this a key time to listen to their concerns.
Provide Information: During times of stress and crisis, we must shift our communication tactics. People don’t want to feel as though they’re being lectured; they need fewer details than normal; and human stories are more compelling than statistics – especially stories that are personal to you.
Give Support: Your clients want to know how we’ll get through this time and prepare for the future. Use your well-honed consultation skills to listen and respond with simple steps that lets them move forward with as much ease as possible.
Our 2020 factsheet includes up-to-date information about the state of disability coverage in the U.S.
Downloadable Social Media Content
We have created a series of infographics you can share and post to highlight the critical data from our fact sheet and spark conversation. We encourage you to share these materials on your social media channels and through your own campaigns.
For Facebook & LinkedIn
If you’d like more detail regarding how to approach conversations about discussing people’s risk for being out of work, consider listening to this podcast. Maxwell Schmitz interviewed Fred Schott, The CDA’s Director of Research and Operations, and me in April on Plan Francisco about how we should approach talking about disability insurance during this time.
Also please don’t forget you can reference The CDA blog and its robust library of articles. Here you can dive deeper on current topics surrounding disability coverage including paid leave, Social Security Disability Insurance, supplemental income protection, and overhead expense disability insurance to name a few.