When Veronica Gallardo wanted to buy auto insurance shortly after immigrating to the United States 25 years ago, she found that primary support for Spanish speakers was missing from the insurance shopping experience. It was an experience that set her on a mission — to make sure no one else who wanted to buy insurance, an essential purchase, faced roadblocks simply because they couldn’t access information in their
Some two decades later, Veronica’s Insurance has 90 locations and is rapidly growing through its franchise business model across the U.S., with its largest presence in California. The San Bernardino-based company aims to deliver the lowest insurance prices across a broad spectrum of insurance products, including health, life and automobile, where it got its start, for the Hispanic market.
An essential, and essentially in-person, business
Everyone who works at Veronica’s Insurance is Hispanic, said COO, Raul Dominguez, and everyone is bilingual. He is a native of Spain, and the staff is rich in geographic diversity from cities across Spain, Mexico, Central and South America. Alongside their deep ties to Hispanic culture, each office has deep roots in its community, with people from those neighbourhoods often on staff. This connection means each office is more than just a place that sells insurance products — offices are tightly woven into the fabric of the community. As a result, customers build authentic relationships with their agents and often prefer to go into the office to do even simple transactions such as paying monthly bills. “We have customers that go every month to the office to make a regular payment with a specific agent,” Dominguez said. “If they have to wait in line an hour, they will wait. They love this connection.”
Raul Dominguez, COO
Capacity, staffing challenges brought on by COVID-19 pandemic
Interaction that customers counted on was threatened seemingly overnight by the COVID-19 pandemic. Continuing to allow personal interactions and friendly conversation that customers expected became incredibly hard for Veronica’s Insurance for two reasons. First, the restrictions on in-person capacity required advanced scheduling and increased remote support, quite contrary to the drop-in culture of the business. Second, there was a shortage of staff because many took leave to care for family. Where each site had been staffed typically by five to six employees, that number was now down to two to three. That meant that even if people did schedule appointments, there was the risk that there wouldn’t be enough staff there to help them when they arrived.
An ongoing project becomes a viable solution
With a technology project that was already underway, the forward-looking company found itself better prepared for the pandemic than it originally thought. Prior to the first shutdowns in March 2020, Veronica’s Insurance had piloted Vee24’s live text chat and live video chat on its website, seeking to attract and retain more digitally-savvy and younger generations of customers. The project met with mixed reviews from customers, who indicated they weren’t completely comfortable with the new way of finding information and receiving support. Tasked with growing the business while maintaining a welcoming customer experience for the brand, Dominguez was working on honing the technology-led customer journeys. It was this experience that laid the groundwork for a wholly innovative way Veronica’s Insurance could continue to allow customers to connect with their neighborhood branch.
Vee24’s video chat relieves in-person staffing shortages while maintaining a real connection with customers
Working with Vee24, Veronica’s Insurance executed its vision of leveraging video to augment the in-person experience, allowing people to continue to visit the offices, connect with agents and solve their problems safely and efficiently within the confines of the pandemic’s restrictions. Vee24’s deep expertise in the financial services space, Dominguez said, made it a natural partner for the insurance company – as it functions in a highly regulated industry. The company set up sleek desktops in 10 offices across California, with big monitors and intuitive interfaces that greet and complete transactions for customers who walk into their neighborhood offices. In just two weeks, it launched Vee24 VeeStudio to enable live, two-way video chat between that customer and an agent who sat at the company’s headquarters or a remote location. With the new customer ‘kiosks’, these branches are better equipped to assist the flow of customers quickly. It’s a setup that blends both virtual and physical worlds — allowing a customer who walks into the office immediate access to a real person on the computer.
Just getting started
With positive feedback from both staff and clients on the live video chat desktop kiosk, Veronica’s Insurance plans to further innovate the physical setup itself and continue rolling it out to 40 locations – leveraging these tools to drive business transformation. And, with the in-person success of the live video, the company is translating what they have learned to the live video chat experience on its website. As it expands its franchise model, eyes serving the unique needs of additional minority markets and continues expansion into products for health insurance, life insurance and more, Vee24’s live engagement platform will be a vehicle to continue to transform its business and deliver for its customers. “If it’s not COVID-19, another thing will hit again and then a different thing,” Dominguez said. “We are using customer engagement technology as much as we can in a faster and easier way.”