In this first of a two-part series on text messaging, Ryan and Steve discuss why and how agencies should be implementing policies and procedures around this common form of communication – and why it can often be one of the biggest E&O holes in an agency’s documentation.
In this first of a two-part series about text messaging, Ryan and Steve discuss why and how agencies should be implementing policies and procedures around what is often one of the biggest E&O holes in an agency’s documentation.
With the ever-growing popularity of this communication channel, it has become increasingly important for agencies to be aware of who in their agency is texting and to properly document all communication, whether it is internal (between staff) or external (producer to client).
As a first step toward responsible handling of text messaging, Steve and Ryan recommend that agencies find out who in the agency is texting, who they are texting, and what devices they are using to text. An easy way to find these things out is to send a mass email to employees and to simply ask them.
It can become very complicated to keep track of all communications when there are many employees and clients texting, especially when many of those people have different types of phones (ie. iPhone, Android, etc.). Each may capture screen shots and record data differently.
Agencies need to be aware of both internal and external text message communications, as it is just as important to document account manager to producer communications as it is those from producer to client or prospect. There should be record of all conversations, whether it be discussion that led to decisions about what policy to take out or one of a producer answering a client’s question. (2:05)
Safety and Security
Agencies must be mindful about what they allow employees to share via text, as this data is being stored and shared in different ways than what they are accustomed to with email. Steve notes that agencies should strive to strike a balance between safety, security, and compliance concerns and ensuring that the agency is open to communicating with clients and prospects in the way they want. The consumer experience remains key; consumers want frictionless communications and texting is an easy and convenient way to provide this.
Rather than becoming so mired in E&O and safety concerns that they avoid allowing texting (and new technology!) altogether, Steve and Ryan suggest that agencies discuss and explore the many options available. In addition, they recommend that agencies develop a broad electronic communications policy, in which they include all types of electronic communications (email, social media platforms, text, etc.), but where texting is also given specific consideration due to its unique issues. (7:30)
Agency Management Systems and Texting
As they explore options, agencies should look at their agency management system and upgrade to whatever capability the system has for managing text. Many agency management system vendors have upgraded (or are upgrading) their system to include inbound and outbound text on their platform.
One of the biggest benefits of this upgrade is that text messaging is automatically documented (i.e., added to their client file, like email is now). This capability also allows employees to text from their keyboards. (11:45)
Having an agency-wide solution and centralized number is also a good thing in case an employee leaves the agency, and for helping to ensure that the agency (not the agent) owns the customer relationship.
SMS and MMS
There are two different types of text messages:
SMS (short message service)— Text-only based; 160-character per message limit; can send links
MMS (multi-media service) – Can add files, photos; 1600-character per message limit
With both types of messaging, there are many interesting opportunities to engage, humanize, extend the client relationship. (12:20)
It is important for agencies to train their staff and put very specific processes in place regarding when texting is appropriate. (The electronic communication policy should be the foundation of this.)
Equally important is for agencies to train their clients. For organizations that use agency-wide texting solution (instead of personal cell phones), they will need to transition and train their clients to use that agency number. Agencies should explain to clients that the agency has put the agency wide solution in place, and that by using the new solution they will receive a response more quickly than if they text an individual’s number. (15:00)
Although there are some great opportunities to use text to send updates and notifications to clients, agencies must be aware of the stringent compliance issues that apply to broadcast texts (i.e., sending multiple texts off to multiple people). The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandates that an organization must get an individual’s written consent to send them broadcast texts.
Agencies can’t assume that clients who send text messages to an agency employee are also comfortable receiving text messages in return. Agencies should be extremely respectful and considerate when communicating via text, and always ask whether a person would like to receive texts. When an agency asks a client for permission, they should also be very specific about the different types of texts they might send. (18:50)
Legal Rules and Resources
Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) – FCC regulated. Covers automated telephone dialing systems/ do not call lists. Text is included. (23:30)
Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America (National “Big I”)- Legal memo from legal department specifically addressed text messages and what agencies need to do. Conservative approach. Also includes sample of consent form agencies can use. Read more here. (25:00)
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