Insight: An Agent Resource

Industry Featured: Hospitality

This is the fifth in a series of articles that highlight the advantages and disadvantages of the Texas Nonsubscription Option.

Hotels and motels all across the state are among Texas businesses that have found nonsubscription to be a fit for their operations. These hotels have opted out of the state workers' compensation system and have put in place effective occupational injury plans that are providing favorable results for their employees and the company. From small "mom & pop" motels to luxury brands, hotels like the Fairmont Hotel, Hotel Adolphus, Motel 6, and many of the Holiday Inns and Sheratons are utilizing nonsubscription to take care of employees who may become injured at work.

This article reviews the advantages nonsubscription provides the hospitality industry.

Hotels and motels have unique exposures for on-the-job injuries due to the complex nature of their operations. They have all the exposures that you would expect to find in restaurants, laundries, hair salons, fitness clubs, country clubs, retail stores, etc., while operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Hotel employees may include a very wide variety of individuals such as highly paid executives, property managers, electrical and mechanical maintenance staff, landscaping/grounds-keeping workers, security personnel, event planners, as well as the usual staff of service employees.

Nonsubscription works well for this industry due to the high number of employees who tend to be lower-wage earners and "moonlighters," as well as part-time staff. While this worker lineup also means employee turnover is generally higher than other industries and can present challenges for managing on-the-job injury claims, safeguards in place through the nonsubscription process can help mitigate these exposures.

Because Temporary Income Benefits paid as a result of an injury are not taxable according to the IRS, the injury benefits of lower-wage earners can often be equal to or even greater than their take-home pay when they are working. So an employee's standard of living is often not changed while they are recovering, providing little incentive for the worker to want to return to work, and in some instances even serving as an enticement to identify ways to avoid doing so.

Since nonsubscription allows the employer greater involvement and coordination of an injury treatment program, it can provide an effective approach to eliminating unnecessary and questionable delays in recovery.

In the state workers' compensation system, an injured employee has a choice of doctors. In this system, an injured employee may find it is not difficult to see a doctor who will certify his/her inability to work. Under a nonsubscriber plan, the employer has the ability to require that benefits only be paid while the injured worker is under the medical care of an approved physician. Nonsubscribers typically utilize occupational clinics whose doctors specialize in employment-related issues. The providers are trained to provide reports stating the injured employee's limitations, rather than simply stating whether he/she should be off work. With the wide variety of jobs available within a hotel setting, this increases the chances for the employer to arrange some type of continued work for the injured employee, even if it is under modified duty. If the physician states that the employee can return to work in any capacity, no wage-continuation benefits will be payable whether the employee actually returns to work or not.

Because of the high employee turnover within the industry, screening measures such as background checks, pre-employment physicals and drug testing can be cost-prohibitive. The lack of screening can be particularly problematic for the industry due to the temporary nature of much of the banquet and special event help. It can also create a security issue, especially with the Housekeeping Department's access to guest rooms where valuables are often left out.

With the wide variety of security issues in a hotel, cameras and alarms are placed in as many appropriate locations as possible. This may aid in the investigation of an employee injury, as well as other types of dangerous or criminal acts. This is important when defending disputed and/or fraudulent injury claims. Because of mandatory arbitration in a properly designed nonsubscriber program, the nonsubscribing employer is in a position to more vigorously defend these claims than a subscribing employer, which must relinquish control of the dispute to its workers' compensation carrier and then have the questionable claim adjudicated in a state system where such challenges often fall on deaf ears.

Given the highly competitive nature of the hotel business, gaining a financial edge over the competition can be important. With the low cost of nonsubscriber programs and the increased oversight over losses, the reduction in the cost of employee injury programs gives the nonsubscribing hotel an additional savings over competitors operating in the state workers' compensation system.

10 Dos and Don'ts of Social Media for Insurance Agents

Over the last decade, social media has changed the way friends interact, news is delivered and businesses advertise. As of June 2017, Facebook has over 2 billion monthly users. And it is projected that in 2017, social media ad spending will surpass television ad spending. Social media is stronger than ever, and businesses of every size realize the importance of having an online presence.

When it comes to representing themselves on social media, insurance agents have a challenge unlike most other professionals - you have to develop your own unique brand while staying true to your larger insurance brand identity. As an agent, you have the opportunity to turn this challenge into an advantage by presenting yourself as a local expert for your community. As you engage your target market, however, there are several points to consider in order to put your best foot forward into the social media arena.

  1. DON'T try to be everywhere. It's easy to burn out by trying to engage on every popular social media channel. Instead, stick to two to four channels where your audience engages, and focus on those. Tailor your message for each channel, as appropriate.
  2. DO be personable. Whether you're on Facebook or Snapchat, always let your personality shine. Anyone can regurgitate facts and figures, but standing out to potential customers requires charisma and uniqueness. Being social is the first rule of social media, after all.
  3. DON'T delete visitor comments. Unless your comments section turns belligerent, don't just sweep negative comments under the metaphorical rug – turn the situation around by showing concern for the customer's issues. Sympathetic, solution-driven responses can change the outlook of most sour consumers.
  4. DO respond to every comment. Customers want to know that they're being heard, so make every attempt to respond in a personable, positive and professional manner when they attempt to make a connection.
  5. DON'T sell all of the time. The biggest mistake businesses make on social media is always attempting to sell their products or services. No one wants to tune into a 24/7 commercial, so be sure to engage your audience with other topics like industry news, local events, a behind-the-scenes look at your office, helpful tips and more.
  6. DO use paid ads. No matter your number of followers, your reach is limited unless you pay for ad space or boosted posts. Craft an advertising message that will appeal to a wide audience and then utilize your social media channel's targeting options to find your ideal market.
  7. DON'T try to do it all yourself. If possible, identify an employee, intern or cost-effective marketing service with a passion for social media and task them with updating your channels. In the absence of that, use a scheduling and monitoring software program like Hootsuite in order to plan and post your content in advance.
  8. DO utilize creative content. Your most important mission on social media is engagement. Capturing your audience's attention will have a positive impact on your bottom line, but you'll have to get creative to get there. Use photos, videos, polls, surveys, live feeds and more – whatever clicks with your audience.
  9. DON'T share too much third-party content. Utilizing content written by someone other than yourself is a great way to fill your posting quota – just don't overdo it. Ultimately, your followers are on your channel because they want to hear from you.
  10. DO become a resource. Create unique and engaging blogs and posts that will highlight you as an authority in the industry. This will not only impress your existing followers, but will earn you even more as your information is shared and discovered through search engines.

ALL ABOUT YOU: The Art of Listening

Many scientific studies have demonstrated over and over that we, as human beings, pay more attention and give more credence to familiar things. Stories heard growing up, songs that play frequently on the radio, our own viewpoints – these things light up our brain, excite us.

This can serve us well, especially as children. The ABC's, "look both ways before crossing the street," "stop, drop and roll" – these are familiar and repeated, and we are alive and literate in part because of them. But there is a dark side to the familiar. Our brains make it harder to hear people who are expressing views, concerns or beliefs that are different from our own.

In our day-to-day lives, at work, at home, with the barista at your local coffee shop, we often miss what people are truly telling us by listening only to what we want to believe is being said. This can be hugely detrimental to our relationships, our business ventures and ourselves. But the solution is simple. Listen.

Challenge: Next time you are in a conversation, try to focus exclusively on what the person in front of you is saying. Don't think about what you will say next. Try to think about where that person is coming from and give them the benefit of the doubt that they have something valuable to say.