In reviewing a number of E&O claims, it certainly seems that the notes detailing the discussion of the various producer / client meetings could use some improvement. It is important to realize that when an E&O claim develops, all file notes / e-mails / proposals, etc. will come into play. Whether these documents help or hurt the agency’s defense is up to the agency and their staff of producers.
Obviously producers play a very key role in the agency and in its future success. Their efforts on new business, client retention, exposure analysis all are very important. The manner in which they handle these various roles will also heavily determine the E&O exposure the agency faces. For at least the last 25 years, producers have generated the majority of E&O claims.
Take the scenario of a producer out in the field discussing various issues with a customer. The discussion could involve desired coverages, coverages rejected, various coverage questions, etc. It is important that these conversations be documented sufficiently to ensure that the potential for any misunderstandings has been eliminated or at least reduced.
There are a number of ways to address this. One that some producers use involves trusting their memory. Trusting that when they get back to the office, they will remember to handle the issue that the client requested. This is certainly not a recommended approach.
Obviously a producer can take notes when the client is communicating and then review those notes and handle any tasks that need to be performed when they get back to the office. This is a good approach but one that some producers feel is especially time consuming. Another approach is to take some brief notes but then ensure that those topics are fully detailed to avoid missing any topics. Since most agency producers probably have a smart phone, consider using your phone when you get in your car to record the details of the discussion. Most phones have this capability or there are free apps to handle this. This recording can then get posted to the agency file or transcribed. This recording should take place immediately when getting in the car and before moving on to the next stop. There is nothing like the present to ensure an accurate detailing of the conversation.
It is still suggested that the essence of the conversation be communicated back to the client. This can be handled by e-mailing a copy of the recording to the client and advising them to contact you if there are any questions or incorrect statements in the recording. Another approach is to address the conversation in some form of written communication (letter / e-mail, etc.).
These producer / client meetings are extremely important. They typically involve key decisions by the client on their insurance program or key questions to help them understand how their insurance works. Unfortunately, there is also tremendous potential for misunderstandings of these discussions and details. Ensuring that the discussions are well documented is a must for every producer.