Does the staff know the expectations for documentation?

Let me ask you a question: Has your agency experienced periodic issues with the timeliness and quality of documentation? Is there inconsistency among the staff (including the producers) in when and how some things get documented? This is a very common issue with many agencies.

What is essentially the problem and what would help to solve the problem?

Most often, the issue is that no one really knows exactly what the documentation expectations are. Possibly the expectations are verbalized and passed down from one staff member to another. In other words, if I came to work for your agency, how would you advise me of what those expectations are? How would I know the standards that you are asking me to achieve? If I had previously worked in another agency, you might expect that I would know the importance of documentation. This is an “error or omission” you don’t want to make.

Bottom line, documentation is one of the most fundamental and important aspects of a quality E&O loss prevention program and to ensure consistency, the agency standards should be actually documented in writing for all employees to know, understand and honor.

The documentation standards should include items such as:

– How deletions of coverage are handled and when the customer declination of a specific coverage or limit should be memorialized in a written document back to the customer. What should be included in the document back to the customer?

– The expected time period for when telephone conversations should be documented in the agency system. Probably best to avoid statements such as “as soon as practicable” as the meaning of this phrase could vary by agency staff member.

– The expected level of documentation of a phone conversation. This should involve a requirement that the actual name of the customer be included (as opposed to “insured”) as well as sufficient detail of the exact essence of the conversation. Ideally, the documentation should be such that another member of the agency staff could read the documentation and know exactly what was discussed and any next steps or open items. Also, another good rule for documentation is “don’t put anything in the system that a jury could read”.

– Regarding documentation in the system, what abbreviations are acceptable and which words need to be spelled out.

To the extent that the agency has an active audit process in place, by having your documentation expectations spelled out enables the “auditor” to measure the actual documentation against the standards.

Documentation is too important to leave it to chance or to believe that the staff knows what is expected of them. Put it in writing – it is easy to do and will pay huge dividends down the road.

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