The pandemic halted the travel industry but couldn’t ground Seven Corners
The pandemic upended nearly every business in the world, none perhaps more than the travel industry. With cities across the globe sheltering in place and airlines grounded, Seven Corners saw two of its three revenue streams impacted overnight.
Some company leaders might have panicked a bit, or at least swallowed hard as 2020 played out. But Seven Corners’ founders have mastered the art of recognizing trends and adapting to monumental change.
Founders Jim Krampen and Justin Tysdal thought the travel insurance segment was an untapped market and launched their solution in 1993. A year later, the first travel app was born, then Expedia hit the market the next year. Suddenly the idea of using a travel agency to book trips seemed outdated. But Jim and Justin didn’t fold their traditional travel tent. They embraced technology and evolved to meet the new challenges of the then-emerging digital travel space.
Working with their carrier partners, Seven Corners was the first-to-market in developing a COVID coverage product solution for its travel insurance plans. Also, the technology and operations teams quickly introduced customer-focused initiatives like implementing WhatsApp to communicate with clients overseas and relying on Salesforce to manage sales and customer service from home. The Carmel-based company has grown steadily, employing nearly 140 people, and they are actively hiring today.
Seven Corners provides health and trip cancellation insurance for customers globally, primarily for international travelers. It was their customer service team who helped Buzz Aldrin get safely to medical help when the legendary astronaut fell ill in Antarctica a few years ago. They’ve arranged medivacuation for travelers who ran into trouble while mountain climbing, but also helped with less adventurous issues like apprising bridal parties about COVID restrictions for destination weddings and helped thousands of people cancel leisure travel for myriad reasons. Should you perish while traveling they can even ensure your body gets to its final resting place.
Ryan Brubaker, chief information officer and executive vice president of operations, credits the team with holding steady during 2020 and using the pandemic lull to focus on how they could improve internal processes that benefit the customer experience.
“Strong partnerships and good working relationships among the agents, IT and Ops teams have been paramount to our continued innovation, including a customer experience initiative and redefining our claims experience,” he said.
Seven Corners is nationally renowned as an insurance company, but they’re also part of Indiana’s tech community and highly reliant on its tech specialists, which range from software and platform engineers to development.
“Tech is everywhere, of course, but it’s a key and very significant part of our workforce,” Ryan said. “We’re a 24/7 global operation that simply must be online when our customers need us whether they’re on safari, on Mediterranean excursion or at home working out their travel plans. Tech is essential and really always has been for us.”
With progress being made in overcoming the pandemic in some countries, business is ticking up again, and Seven Corners is racking up accolades nearly as quickly as it welcomes customers back to the friendly skies.
U.S. News & World Report and Forbes Advisor counted Seven Corners among the best 10 travel insurance companies in the country. The company also won the Elliott Advocacy Readers’ Choice Awards—one of five given in the travel insurance category.
“Quality customer service is really job No. 1 around here,” said Annette Gobrogge, executive director of people and culture.
One example of that focus is illustrated in a story about a Michigan couple—Darryl and Nancy—who were on the first day of a 10-day trip to China when Darryl fell, fracturing his hip and shattering his femur. As he was wheeled into a Beijing hospital, Darryl was asked how he would be paying for the service.
“Once they learned who we were insured by and there was someone to work with, it all just flowed from there,” Darryl said.
There was a moment, though, when he learned about the severity of his injuries, that he was sure he would die in China. He called his daughter.
She said, ‘Dad, I’ve talked to the people at Seven Corners. They’re smart and they do this every day. They’re going to get you home.’” he recalled.
He recovered from his surgery and was able to leave the country after about two weeks, and says he was comforted by knowing there was a team in Indiana working through time zones and language differences to get him back home.
“We will never again travel without travel insurance anywhere outside the U.S.,” Nancy said.
With COVID-19 restrictions being lifted around the country, and in some parts of the world, Nancy and Darryl may be among millions to take back to the friendly skies. Airlines and hospitality venues are offering travel deals, reduced fares and new routes to an eager audience.
In a survey of 13,000+ consumers last month, Shopkick found 83 percent are ready to spend on non-essential purchases, compared to about 30 percent last year. At 41 percent, travel is among the top of those post-pandemic splurges being planned.
And that is music to Seven Corners’ ears.