Point/Counterpoint: Is Texting a Viable Form of Client Communication?

Is texting a viable form of client communication?

YES.

To be successful as agents, we must adapt to our clients. The insurance industry changes as fast as today’s fashion trends. I may not be a big fan of the latest nose hair extension movement (Google it—I’m not making this up), but I do think texting is a viable form of communication—as long as you do it correctly.

Some clients simply don’t want to talk on the phone. Having the ability to quickly assist them with a basic question or policy change via text keeps them happy and saves you the time of coordinating an entire conversation.

But while texting is convenient, it’s not for every client, and you need to cover all your bases. When I first started using this form of communication, I was concerned about potential legal issues, so I reached out to Jason Ernest, deputy CEO and counsel of the Insurance Agents and Brokers.

According to Ernest, “a text message is as legally binding as any other form of communication. As long as the agent documents it properly, what is said in texts can be used in errors & omissions defense or other legal actions. Just remember the catch-all phrase we use in our voicemail messages—‘Coverage cannot be bound or altered via text.’”

But how to properly document a string of text messages? Oh, the beauty of apps. Download ToPDF—this app enables you to turn your text conversations into PDFs you can attach directly to your agency management system.

Another quick tip: If your client is saved as a contact in your iPhone, list their full name on the first name line. That way, if you have to screenshot a conversation, the date, time and client’s first and last name all show up on the screen.

Finally, believe it or not, I’ve had to tell clients to use their words when they’ve opted to respond with something like a Bitmoji. Always encourage clients to be specific as possible in their texts.

—Ashley Fitzsimmons, insurance specialist at Fitzsimmons Insurance Agency, Inc. in Forest City, Pennsylvania

NO.

Texting as a form of binding communication isn’t a “no” for my independent agency, but rather a “not yet.”

Obviously, any business must be able to adapt to stay relevant in the changing world of insurance. We want to be as accessible and convenient as a direct writer with 24-hour claims service.

But until we’ve had the opportunity to test and deliver a solid procedure for communicating with clients in this way, texting will remain off the table. I’m not willing to risk potential errors & omissions issues until I can be sure we have a solid procedure in place.

Even with our admonitions on voicemail and email that “we are unable to add, change or bind coverage using this system,” electronic communication gives clients a false sense of security. They feel that once they’ve left a message, dropped a text or shot an email, they’re good.

But how many times does a spam filter catch an email and prevent it from being delivered to our inboxes? Have you ever sent a text, only to discover hours later that it didn’t send for any number of reasons? Your client may believe they’ve contacted you; meanwhile, that text may be hanging out in cyberspace, undeliverable.

Even when you cover yourself with a disclaimer, it could still turn into a bad experience. Texting is just one more form of communication that has too many gray areas at this time.

In order to consider making texting an acceptable form of communication in my office, I’d want to investigate using some sort of text-to-email program, which could provide a return disclaimer advising the customer that a voice, email or text confirmation will follow.

We’re living in a technologically rich society. As independent agents, we still have a duty to protect our agencies and our customers. Texting, at this time, does not provide the sense of security I wish to instill in my insureds.

—Joe Schroeder, president/principal at Miller Insurance Agency in Grand Rapids, Ohio