How to Think About Documenting Text Messages for E&O Protection

You know as well as I that the adoption of text messaging as a communication channel is not going to slow down and certainly is not going away.

The key to proper documentation of these conversations is training staff on how to make sure copies of text messages get to someone who can make sure they are attached to the client file.

Documenting this way is currently cumbersome. There are documentation gaps. You know this, I know this and your agency E&O underwriter knows this.

The Process is Improving — Slowly

While the process is improving, it is slow and there are some gaps in your current process. Here are some thoughts on where we are now and steps you can take to improve:

Find out who is texting: While outside salespeople might text clients and prospects more than inside staff, don’t assume.

Device being used: It is likely all staff is currently using their personal phone for text messages. Personal phone for business use may create problems.

Electronic Communication Policy: What is your organization’s electronic communication policy? Is it clear what is expected of staff that uses their personal device to communicate with clients? What documentation is acceptable?

Upgrade management system: Several management system vendors have upgraded or are upgrading their platforms to handle inbound and outbound texts. Typically, these texts are sent to an agency phone number and imported into the system for documentation.

Train all staff: When your management system can take over text communication, you will continue to have individual personal phones used by clients. Decide if you will require (and how you will enforce) the use of the agency text number of all “official” agency/client communications.

Train your clients: It is going to be hard to get your clients to move to the agency text channel. Old habits are hard to break. An option might be to train staff on how to forward a received text on their personal device to the agency number to more easily get it attached to the client file.

My key point is to begin the discussions now for how you want to handle these communications in the future.

Software recommendations for documenting text messages

There are a couple of software options that allow creating a document (typically PDFs) of text conversations.

  1. I have previously written about using iExplorer to create PDFs of text conversations.
  2. Another option I recently came across is Decipher TextMessage.

Capturing phone screenshots of the text message and emailing to someone in the office continues to be a favorite method of sending documentation. For many, this can be a cumbersome multi-touch process. In next week’s TechTips, I am going to share a technique to automate sending the email with screenshots attached. Stay tuned.

No matter how you preserve text messages for client documentation, you should make sure the records have all of the information necessary for them to be admissible in court if the need arises. Always consult a lawyer for the specifics for your region about what information is required.

For most legal matters the following details should be visible in your text message documentation:

  • Date and time of the messages.
  • The real contact information for the other party or parties in the text message conversation. For SMS this is a phone number. For MMS or iMessages, this is either a phone number or an email address.

What have I missed? Are there steps, processes or tools you are using to make sure all text conversations are appropriately documented? Leave a comment below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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