COMPANY SERVICE CENTERS:
“He’s dead. Would you like his voice mail?” -- New Yorker Cartoon, July 12, 1999
Messages pile up during a staffperson’s absence or “busy time”.
Incomplete information is not followed up on so the resulting transaction is incorrect or incomplete.
The insured feels coverage is bound when it has been only relayed to the agency.
Messages do not get relayed at all due to “operator error”.
Phone tag delays necessary action.
Use a simple voice mail system. Make sure it is checkable from outside the agency.
If an answering service is used, do thorough reference checking and frequent tests by calling it at weird hours with difficult messages to see if the message quality and timeliness is acceptable.
Some voice mail systems automatically switch messages to another line (like the manager’s) if the “piled up” messages exceed a set number or set time without being answered.
Set very specific standards for responding to and clearing voice mail messages (e.g. by end of day; every four hours).
Set specific forwarding standards; e.g. set messages to be forwarded if you are going to be out of the office for three or more hours; the supervisor forwards all calls of anyone who calls in sick to a colleague.
Do routine, scheduled tests to audit compliance with call-back standards.
Don’t rely too heavily on “We can not bind coverages via voice mail” recorded statements. Such language has not been tested in courts and lack of a response from the agency in a timely manner would probably override its effectiveness anyway.
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Copyright 2000 by Virginia M. Bates. Used with permission.