Do your branch offices have the proper E&O culture ?

Remember this old game – tell something to the first person in line and ask that they tell the next person what they were told and have that person tell the next one, etc. Invariably, when you ask the 10th person in line what they were told, the story barely resembles what the first person was told.

Well, the same thing happens in the world of insurance, especially for those agencies that have branch offices. Somehow, what the branch offices heard differs, sometimes significantly, from the “home office”.

When you are dealing with key E&O procedures and practices, this disparity can cause some issues and potentially some E&O claims. How can this potential problem be averted? Here are a couple of suggestions:

– The agency should have a point person that has the overall E&O loss presentation responsibilities. This way, someone clearly “owns” this important initiative. It is vital that this point person have the support and backing of Sr. Management.

– When procedures are implemented, changed, etc., the point person as well as a key member of Sr. Management should visit the branch offices to ensure a clear delivery of the message. If a visit is not possible, video conferencing can be used provided the entire branch office staff are on the video conference. Delivering the message to one person and asking that they communicate it to the rest of the staff could result in the message being somewhat “watered down”.

– Have a point person in each office that serves as the champion to ensure a strong E&O culture. This way when Sr. Management leaves, there is someone in the agency that keeps the focus on the issues.

Ideally, you want each office to take ownership of this key element of the agency. I have seen many agencies implement initiatives in their office. For example, to strengthen the need for quality and prompt documentation, put signs around the office stating, “if it’s not in the file, it didn’t happen”. These serve as constant reminders of the expectation.

Bottom line, more often than not, the branch offices of agencies (whether achieved through growth or acquisition) are more of a “hot spot” for E&O claims than the “home office” is. Look for ways to keep this from happening in your agency.

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