Charlie Funk
Charlie Funk

Those of us who stay long enough in this profession have chosen to form friendships and relationships with a broad spectrum of people. I have mentioned some of them in past columns. No one should be surprised that the list has grown. Bob Ford, a regional vice president of sales at Travel Guard, is among the additions.

Some years ago, as the entire landscape of the insurance industry changed, Bob conceived the idea of engaging the client in the process of deciding to buy travel insurance by asking, "What's your plan?" What's your plan when (fill in the blank) happens? It was a stroke of genius that worked wonders in helping us help our clients by having them purchase travel insurance.

In my March 2 column ("Keep calm and sell cruises"), I urged all who read it to work the problem, but honestly, the situation has intensified substantially since then.

So my question to you today is, "What's your plan?" The following are key issues to consider:

• Stay current on all information regarding the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak, especially from suppliers who keep us informed on their specific plans.

• Share that information with your client base. An informed client is one who will return.

• Understand what drives your clients' anxieties. We have found that the fear of being stranded in a quarantine far exceeds the fear of contracting coronavirus.

• Have a plan in place if it is necessary to close your office for whatever reason. Be ready to move home if that's an option.

• If your phone system isn't already Voice over Internet Protocol-capable, consider changing over quickly. Once installed and fully propagated, the agency's same phone numbers will ring to a phone connected to the system via the internet anywhere in the world. The only element missing will be face-to-face encounters with associates.

• Recheck cash flow. It is imperative that an owner know clearly how much cash is on hand, how much is coming in and when and what demands will be placed on that cash.

• Start now to gather information on establishing lines of credit and applying to the Small Business Administration for low- or no-interest loans and even grants. Efforts are underway as I write this to relax collateral standards for agency loans, given that we are a service industry and have relatively few tangible assets.

• Promote products that people feel safe buying. Right now, that is domestic tours and packages. More than a few clients have told me they will take a domestic vacation because "if something happens, we can drive home."

• Stay focused on working the problem. Failure to do so could be fatal.

It's like this: Don't give up hope. Someday, I assume it will be generally known what went on behind the curtains on the part of industry leaders to improve the chances of survival of the retail travel channel. I'm not sure I want to know some of the potential responses that were considered.


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