Pictured above, the staff of Ford Insurance Agency in Gadsden practices safe social distancing in light of the current COVID-19 virus. Pictured, from left: Seth Zambrano, Kim Howard, Madison Cannon, Jody Sizemore.
By Katie Bohannon, Staff Writer
With the world constantly changing in response to COVID-19, one local insurance agency proves that its efforts to protect its clients will never cease. During a time when clients might feel tempted to worry, Ford Insurance Agency at 1957 Rainbow Drive in Gadsden strives to set minds at ease.
Ford Insurance Agency took precautions straightaway to combat the growing COVID-19 concerns in Etowah County. To regulate clients walking straight to the front desk, agents rearranged and sanitized furniture to create a closed-off waiting area upon entry. The new layout reinforces social distancing protocol, allowing clients to still freely converse with agents while maintaining a six-foot distance from one another.
Hand sanitizing stations located outside the front door and inside the office at the waiting area provide clients with the opportunity to clean their hands before and after touching any surfaces. Rather than conducting business in their offices or at their desks, agents now perform all transactions at the front desk to limit exposure. Agents contacted their clients and asked customers to mail payments or make payments over the phone.
“We’ve done a lot of following up with our current customers,” said agent Kim Howard. “We check in with them and see what we can do for them to keep relationships going where we can’t get out [in public.]”
Stopping public visits is one major change that Howard and other agents at Ford Insurance implemented to protect both themselves and clients. Agent Seth Zambrano began working at Ford Insurance at the beginning of the year, when COVID-19 first hit Etowah County. As someone accustomed to venturing out into the public on a regular basis to socialize with potential or current customers, Zambrano learned to adjust to a new job with new rules.
“We’ve been talking to a lot of customers, making sure they’re okay on their home front,” said Zambrano. “We feel [checking on our customers] is very important. We want them to know that we’re here for them if they need anything.”
While in the office, Ford Insurance agents maintain social distancing protocol, sitting six-feet apart in meetings and working at their desks as much as possible. Apart from the shift in work routine regarding public outings and the physical separation between one another at work, Ford Insurance agents claimed that their relationships with coworkers remain relatively unchanged.
“If anything, we’re the only social lives we have right now,” said agent Madison Cannon. “So, it’s actually made us a little bit closer.”
As a business that supports local families, Ford Insurance employs several individuals with young children. Cannon presented COVID-19 to her four-year-old in a logical manner, simply explaining that she could not leave the house right now because there is a risk she could get sick.
“She understands that we have to go to a doctor when we get sick and she doesn’t like the doctor,” said Cannon. “She’s actually been really good at understanding [the situation].”
Ford Insurance agents implemented their work protocol into their private lives, practicing social distancing protocol, wearing masks and limiting public exposure as much as possible. Howard does not take her phone into stores while shopping and uses hand sanitizer before she exits and reenters her vehicle, while Cannon and Zambrano go from work to home only unless they make an essential grocery run.
Prior to Governor Kay Ivey’s press conference on April 28 detailing the multiple phase approach to gradually reopen Alabama, Ford Insurance agents discussed their opinions on the stay-at-home order already in place. While Howard appreciates the stay-at-home order and considers it effective, she worries about the small businesses who suffer while their doors are closed. Cannon considers all facets of the situation and understands that no perfect solution seems to exist concerning a lifted or implemented stay-at-home order.
“I think we’ve tried social distancing and it seems to have done a good job, but at the same time I really feel like people have spent more time going [in public] to do things than they would have [if the restrictions were not in place],” said Zambrano. “I think it was important to do but I don’t know if it was taken as seriously as it should have been. I think [social distancing] does make a difference if everyone does what they’re supposed to do.”
Regardless of the uncertainty the future holds, Ford Insurance agents remain persistent, resolute and unwavering – determined to help their clients through this challenging time. Through practicing social distancing and safety protocol, maintaining a clean office environment and implementing inventive work methods, Ford Insurance agents endeavor to support their clients in any way possible, reminding families, businesses and individuals that their best interest will always remain insured.
“We’re still here for you and we’re still at work,” said Cannon. “We’ve taken precautions so that we can still be at work. We want to help in any way we can—whether that be insurance or a way we can help outside of that. We just really want our clients to stay safe. A lot of our clients are family people, so we want them to stay at home if they can. But we’re here for them if they can’t.”