ACN Chapter Chats: Amy Crandall of AAA
| Connections Editor | Jul 16 2020
In the third installment of the Applied Client Network (ACN) "Chapter Chats" series, we speak with Amy Crandall of AAA to discuss her role in revitalizing the Washington Chapter, as well as her agency's approach to keeping employees safe during the reopening process.
Connections: Can you talk a little bit about your history in the insurance industry and your current role?
Amy: I always say that I’ve been in insurance forever. I started when I was 18 years old, answering the phone while an agent’s secretary was on maternity leave. We got along really well, and every day he would give me a little more responsibility. I ended up staying long past her maternity leave, and I spent 13 years at that agency. I ended up running their personal lines department.
I was in Ohio at the time, and ended up moving around Ohio. I’ve worked for insurance companies: I was an underwriter, I worked for personal lines insurance, I worked for excess and surplus lines insurance. Then, when I decided to make the move to Washington state five years ago, AAA was there with an opportunity and it happened to be a role that combined everything I loved about all of my other positions. I’m the training manager so I get to work with all of our sales and customer service agents. I get to have my hands in every aspect of the business and I love it.
Connections: How long have you belonged to ACN’s Washington Chapter? What was your motivation to join?
Amy: I was one of the founding members of the revitalization of the chapter. When I came to AAA, I didn’t have any experience with Applied Epic. I kept asking questions and wondering why there wasn’t a user group to help with it outside of Applied Net. I was talking to people at Applied Net about why there wasn’t a user group in Washington.
Apparently, there were three other women who also felt strongly about this, so we decided to make it happen. Since I was passionate about it, I felt it was my duty to create this group to give people a place to go to have their questions answered.
Connections: What would you say is the most beneficial part of being involved with the chapter?
Amy: Certainly the networking. It’s been amazing — not just in Washington state but across the country. Just the idea that there is someone else I can call or who I can communicate with through the forums is a huge help. If we’re at the agency thinking about purchasing a new Applied product, we can consult someone else in the chapter to see if there is anything specific we should know. You might think you don’t have any questions to ask, but somewhere down the line you will, and it’s nice to know you can lean on other users for help and information.
Connections: What does your day-to-day look like having to manage your agency role and your role as part of the Washington Chapter?
Amy: I think as we go through our day-to-day, we’re always thinking about how we can incorporate knowledge we get from working in the agency to our chapter meetings. We are going to have our first virtual meeting about how a virtual Applied Net will look and what that means to our chapter members. It’s a great topic, because a lot of people are asking themselves that question. I know what it means to me, but I definitely want to talk about it with others. Our members are great, and we’ve all stayed in contact about different ideas we have.
Connections: What are some innovative ways the Washington Chapter is helping ACN members stay connected?
Amy: I definitely think the virtual meeting is one way. We were thrown off our game when we had to cancel the in-person meeting. I’m excited about it, and I hope that it’s a huge success. We have to make it bigger and open it up a little bit. I attended the most recent Tri-State Epic virtual meeting, and I saw how smoothly the breakouts worked in Zoom. I was so surprised. I’m hoping that we get enough of a response to where we can host virtual chapter meetings with breakout rooms. I just think that being able to have that virtual connection and to see people will make a big difference for our chapter members.
Connections: How has COVID-19 affected business operations and what practices have been implemented to maintain productivity?
Amy: We’re still not back in the office. A lot of the agencies in the state are small enough that they have been able to open. I will say that things are opening in Washington. Our AAA stores are opening and we have insurance personnel in the stores. It’s been a difficult conversation to have with people in our chapter. I’m from the largest agency, so we all went home in March, whereas others were able to work in their agencies but not be open to the public. As a bigger agency, we’re doing things a bit differently than the other smaller agencies.
It’s been hard because those with insurance are having trouble paying their bills. A lot of people are used to going into the store to pay a premium or ask a question, so they’re stuck. We’ve had to navigate a lot of fears for people, and I think that’s true for any agency. No matter where you are as an agent, the carrier partners have also had to go remote. Sometimes, the answer you could get in 10 seconds is now taking a full day. I think it has affected us in so many ways and ways that we haven’t even realized yet. We’re just doing what we have to do to get through the day-to-day. There is a lot of prioritization that happens, and we’re having to reinvent a lot of things.
Connections: Given states are beginning to reopen and people are returning to the office, how is AAA handling this return and ensuring their employees stay safe while doing so?
Amy: That plan is all in place. Most of our stores are now open, which is huge. We have a limited staff and we’re rotating staff in the stores. We’ve done all the cleaning that needs to be done, and we need to stay on top of sanitizing, with hand-sanitizer stations. We ask that customers who come in wear a mask; if they don’t have one, we can provide one. The same can be said for our employees.
In our corporate office, we have started to come back. Before we can come in we have to have our temperature taken. We’re maintaining physical distance with Plexiglas above our cubicle walls. We’ve limited the number of people that can be in a conference room. We’ve also said that people can continue to remote work. We’re also wiping down door knobs and leaving doors open when we can to limit skin to surface contact.
Connections: Do you think intermittent remote working will become a mainstay in the insurance industry?
Amy: I do. I think that it’s probably something that most agencies and companies have thought about. It means a lot of different things as far as technology goes. I think we definitely, as an industry, have the technology, but I’m not sure everyone as an agent has that technology. Speaking from our agency, because we managed with what we have, we’ve seen how much better it can be if we update our game. Remote working will be more of a “normal” for us. It’s not for everybody, so I think we’re going to say that those who are doing well working from home can continue to do so and to those that aren’t, they can slowly begin returning to the office. We’ll just be evaluating that moving forward and will make us stronger as a workforce.
Tags: Commentary , COVID-19 , ACN Chapter Chats , Washington , Safety , Reopening