Insurance agencies have excellent potential for being transformed into ‘green’ virtual offices. If you want to limit your business’ carbon footprint, and you hate commuting to work, then this article can give you some tips on how to transform your insurance agency into a lean, green, enjoyable money generating machine.
Find a niche insurance product that can be sold on the internet
The internet has allowed online insurance websites to reach national and international customer bases. The trick to successfully selling insurance on the internet is to find a small niche insurance product that customers from around the country or world will search for. Some examples could be adventure travel insurance, Christmas tree lot insurance, international health insurance, and my personal favorite, auto insurance for people who drive their cars to Mexico. These products are extremely small when considered on a local level, but if you can market these products to the entire country or world, your customer base can be huge. There may only be 15 Christmas tree lots within 50 miles of your home, but there are thousands throughout the country!
Another important factor in choosing your product is the simplicity of issuing the insurance policy. The simpler, the better. Online insurance does not work very well if you need to fill out 20 forms and fax documents back and forth for days. Your goal is to find a product that has the potential for the customer to issue the policy themselves through an online insurance application.
Set up your website and Virtual office call center
Once you have your insurance product selected, you now need to build your website and create your call center to service customers who have questions. This is where you can implement the virtual office concept. A few years ago, call centers needed to be housed in one central office building. Customer service representatives would be crammed into cubicles while the manager would watch over the employees who were hooked up to the local phone system network. Today, with the availability of Voice Over IP (VOIP) network phone systems, you can create a virtual call center where your customer service workers are working out of their homes. A VOIP call center phone system functions exactly like a centrally located phone system, but the individual call center phones can be located anywhere in the world as long as they are connected to an internet connection. Instead of cubicles packed into one building, each employee’s house is now that employee’s cubicle.
Choosing your VOIP solution
Unless you wish to maintain your own phone system, it is highly recommended that you look into signing up for a hosted VOIP phone system. A hosted VOIP system means that the actual phone network system is housed by a VOIP company in their data center. The only equipment that your business physically owns and maintains is the actual VOIP phones. The VOIP phones tend to cost a few hundred dollars each, and they function exactly like a normal network phone. The only difference is that you plug a VOIP phone into an internet cable instead of a phone jack. The hosted VOIP company will configure your call center to your exact specifications with features such as, voicemail, call transfers, call queuing, on hold music, and any other features you would use in a standard call center.
In order to monitor the productivity of your employees, you can also set up call logs to track all of the activities and create reports for each individual’s phone activities. Although you can not physically breathe down your employee’s neck, you can keep an eye on your employees through their call logs and you can also listen in on their conversations if needed.
Green advantages of a virtual insurance agency office
Depending on the number of employees in your call center, you have now eliminated multiple cars that commute to work every day. You also are no longer paying energy costs and other expenses involved with running an office building. If you want to go a step further, you can also install solar panels at your home office, and you can leverage the commercial tax credits that tend to be higher for commercial solar systems. The beauty of insurance products is that you have no inventory. Unlike most e-businesses that sell products that need to be warehoused and shipped, insurance is merely a promise with a policy number assigned to it. For this reason, insurance agencies can have zero shipping and inventory, and all documents can be sent electronically instead of through the mail.
Obviously, setting up an insurance agency and virtual office is not something that happens overnight, but if you brainstorm these concepts, you just may find the perfect business idea that can be green, profitable, and allow you and your employees to work from the comfort of their own homes.