As we head into a new type of business environment this month, it is time to review Essential E & O procedures.
Hurricanes may be more predictable than our situation today facing COVID 19, but thinking ahead can make a difference. Social Distancing and Office Cleaning procedures are very important to keep the office going and free of disease. Keeping our employees safe is first on our minds.
E & O concerns need to be mitigated now. After surviving, two hurricanes and two other major storms – Katrina and Sandy, our offices have firsthand experience in critical procedures. First, stress can play a major role in our day to day responsibilities. During Katrina, offices packed up computers and headed out. Paper files were left behind in the office. Offices had to be started from scratch. No hotspots, or WIFI, but wires and plugs. Things have certainly changed!
Today I am addressing procedures for teams working remote at their home or rotating teams staffing the office.
Here are a few scenarios from past situations that can lead to claims, cyber exposure and bad faith claims handling.
- Procedures handing daily mail processing including payments, cancellation notices, or non-renewals. Special attention is required to address the needs of the office. Rotations with unscheduled absences may lead the office with no back up person to process the mail. Have a back up plan and a methods can shorten the mail processing time by sharing the responsibilities of scanning and processing.
- Are you prepared for cyber security measures including payment processing from a unsecured home office server or WIFI connection? All types of work environments exist in our insurance agencies. The ability to have all staff connected in a secured environment is better, but not everyone has the IT infrastructure. When it comes to working from your home server, you need to check it out. Was the latest security patch applied? Quick and easy to find out – use the internet, use your IT person or verify with your provider. Chances are the fix can be downloaded.
- Daily office communications can be complicated. If communicating with your staff by conference call or web conferencing, consider checking out your phone’s capabilities or your conference service now. High demand and remote workers may have difficulties connecting at all times. Texting? Texts may not go through immediately in high volume or restricted areas.
- What about your customers? If your insureds are not at their office or home and unable to get the mail, are you going to urge them with emails to sign up for ACH direct bill with their carrier? Avoid cancellations now and make it the customer’s responsibility to make the call. You should push out communications and let them know they have payment options. Are you notifying premium finance clients when their account is past due, don’t stop now – you will have to keep up the procedure.
- Phone calls. What is your solution when customers call to empty phone extensions (former employees ) or send faxes to an unmanned machine, or an employee is out and cannot answer or return calls? Unattended faxes are serious issues. Yes, you may have fax to email, but traditional fax machines still end up with no paper. Please check the date and time on your machine and make sure it is accurate.
- When customers email or call the office and need to reduce coverage due to affordability, is the procedure to email and call customers and require a reduction of coverage notice? Is the procedure for the customer to call the carrier themselves? Get rolling on this one, because you will need documentation of reduced coverage. Saving money is important to all of us, but not at the expense of an E & O claim. It is simple, by reducing coverage. a total loss will cause your customer financial harm. If an E & O claim happens in the future, the client can’t be upset when you have documentation of the reduction. When the financial crisis is over, are they going to call you back to increase coverage?
- Claims reporting – are you going to leave a recording on your phone and website on how to report a claim?
- Did you update your website with alternate phone numbers if you cannot forward phones or need to update team members?
- Do you have the ability to access company email accounts in the event of illness of a team member.
- Distractions with loved ones, team members and breaking news can overwhelm normal routines. Take a normal routine and move it around from home to office or filling in for another team member, or slower internet speeds can slow down documentation and production. Keep your routine. Take breaks for lunch or reach out at lunch to other lunch buddies. Be ready for frustrations and know that hope is around the corner and like we always do in the insurance business… and we have done it many times, persevere!
WARNINGS for CYBER LIABILITY during a work outages.
Agencies need to be careful of paying vendors online. Verify payment amounts and verify the invoice. “Hover” over email addresses to make sure they are not fake. Pick up your phone and call to verify the source of any email asking for payment. Emergency emails from employees or relatives asking for money due to unusual circumstances – will occur. Verify all suspicious emails.
E & O Claims can happen on scenarios that you would not expect.An example, a customer lets their agent know they are changing their address temporarily. Is it the agent’s responsibility to change it back?
Claim: Customer’s bookkeeper did not pay auto coverage invoice because it was not delivered to the permanent office address. Agent was to change the address back after proof of insurance was issued with the temporary address.Claim occurred when the policy cancelled for non-payment. Auto accident happened after policy was cancelled. E & O stepped in to pay the claim due to the agent’s failure to endorse the policy back to the permanent address. Help your agency and help your customer by not agreeing to unreasonable tasks. The agent thought the customer would take the auto invoice to work to be paid by the bookkeeper and then change the address back to his office. Instead, the customer went on vacation and the policy was cancelled for non-payment.
Also Read: Why You Should Add Cyber Liability to Your Insurance Policy