What Insurance Agencies Can Learn from an Oscars Blunder

Learning from an Academy Award Mix-up

Fans of the Oscars no doubt remember the infamous “La La Land” mix-up of 2017, the time when hosts Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty mistakenly announced “La La Land” as the winner for Best Picture (the actual winner was “Moonlight”).

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) was the firm responsible for tabulating the results, preparing the envelopes, and delivering them to the speakers—all while keeping the results confidential. It turned out that rather than being handed the envelope for best picture, the hosts had accidentally been handed the envelope for best actress, an award which had gone to Emma Stone, one of the stars of “La La Land.”

This one instance of human error was a huge hit to PwC’s reputation and could have cost them a lucrative long-term partnership. But the firm was sure to let the world know they had learned from their mistake. After accepting responsibility and publicly apologizing to everyone involved, PwC implemented new procedures to prevent such an error from occurring again.

Four Error Prevention Tips for Insurance Agencies

There are several lessons from this scenario that insurance agencies may want to reflect upon. These best practices help ensure consistent service, reduce errors, mitigate liability, and defend against errors and omissions (E&O) claims.

  • Maintain Discipline to Process – Identify clear roles and responsibilities for producers and account management staff. Define processes and establish standardized procedures, especially around error-prone activities, such as certificate of insurance management and issuance.
  • Create Checks & Balances – Incorporate double checks into workflows. Agents typically think of this as timely policy checking for property and casualty and peer review for employee benefits. These are good, but they only occur after the policy is issued. Agents need to think about investing time into quality assurance prior to policy issuance. This could include random audits or utilizing an agency management system that is able to flag mistakes.
  • Enable Quick Troubleshooting – Have a plan on how to handle something that goes wrong. Insurance processors are frequently told what they are supposed to do but aren’t trained to handle mistakes.
  • Ensure Accountability & Communication – Create a positive environment that allows people to freely admit errors or speak up. Give them the tools and training to support constructive conversations with policy holders.

Whether you are doing this yourself or outsourcing to a consultant or service provider, you need to keep in mind that this is an ongoing effort—just ask PwC. You can’t write the procedures and train your staff in a “one and done.” You need to maintain awareness and training to avoid complacency. What happened during the 2017 Oscars ceremony is a great reminder of this.


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