Pick Up the Phone to Reduce Your Professional Liability Risk

As an IT consultant, you know clients rely on your professional expertise, but they may not understand the nitty-gritty aspects of your work or technology. That knowledge gap can lead to client disputes.

Professional Liability Insurance can offer you financial protection when miscommunication leads to client lawsuits, but it shouldn’t be your first line of defense. Instead, you may want to sharpen your communication skills – you'd be surprised how much a little dialogue can prevent mistakes and misunderstandings from the outset.

These five steps can help you improve client communication and manage your IT professional liability risk.

1. Use client contracts

Client contracts help you clearly document what work you will and won't do. A contract should define…

  • The scope of the project.
  • Deadlines.
  • Pricing.
  • Professional liability coverage requirements.

Written documentation of promised services provides physical evidence of your agreement and its terms and conditions. It helps manage client expectations and keeps all parties on the same page – literally.

Run business contracts past an attorney to make sure they’re legally up to snuff. For more contract ideas, check out our free contract templates.

2. Conduct regular check-ins

“Over communication” usually isn't an issue for clients. They want to receive frequent updates on projects – whether positive or negative – so they don't have to guess.

To keep the lines of communication open and build trust, consider including the following in your status reports:

  • Project progress / milestones reached.
  • “Hiccups” that add time to the forecasted schedule.
  • Solutions for potential roadblocks.
  • Updated cost and time estimates.

Send these updates regularly to show clients you’re thinking of their experience and to give yourself the chance to address concerns before they cause dissent.

3. Pick up the phone

When something goes wrong on a project, it’s not the time to be coy with customers and send them an email that says, “Call me, maybe?”

Pick up the phone and establish direct contact with the client right away. Adequate notice allows everyone to prepare for a setback and helps manage expectations. The “human touch” also adds credibility by showing that you take your clients' needs seriously.

If the client is unresponsive or fails to acknowledge your attempts at communication, make note of your efforts with a follow-up email. This documentation can help you out if the client later claims you made no attempt to contact them.

4. Establish procedures for handling client complaints

Clients can and will complain at some point in your career. Even if the client is wrong, make it a priority to respond to them in a timely, professional manner.

Create a written policy for resolving client complaints. This procedure ensures…

  • Your employees or subcontractors know how to appropriately handle a dispute.
  • Complaints don't fall through the cracks.
  • Complaints are resolved as quickly as possible.

Contradictions in procedure can easily lead to misunderstandings and lawsuits, so be sure to train your staff on your policy.

5. Carry Professional Liability Insurance

Even the best client communication can’t prevent or quell all disputes. Business Professional Liability Insurance can step in when a client is unsatisfied with your professional services. Also called Professional Indemnity Insurance, this policy can pay for:

  • Attorney fees.
  • Court costs.
  • Settlements or judgments.

Start the conversation with clients to avoid miscommunication and reduce your professional liability risk. Check out “Key Word in Managing Customer Expectations: ‘Communication’” for more tips.