- THE MAGAZINE
“What we prepare for is what we shall get.” – William Graham Sumner
Conventional wisdom says you need to “schmooze” adjusters to get their losses. You know the drill: expensive lunches, fancy outings and always let them win at golf! Hmmm…my adjusters were way too busy for elaborate lunches, they wanted to spend their free time with their families, and I’ve never set foot on a golf course!
Even so, the adjusters I worked with became passionate Cheerleaders for my company. My adjusters would maneuver, manipulate and even fight to get me on their losses! Why? Because with my company the adjuster knew the constant hassles, problems and drama with the average insured were a thing of the past. I “brought peace to the valley” of the adjuster!
Sure, your adjusters have other priorities too. Immediate response, reliable work, technical knowledge, cutting edge equipment and speedy, accurate, organized paperwork along with help in justifying your charges are all essential. (For more on what adjusters want check out last month’s To Your Success.)
However, never forget that adjusters have a tough job. They basically live in fear of the phone ringing! So how did my company eliminate the fear? We followed a routine program – a step-by-step script – focused on soothing the traumatized emotions of a customer who just suffered a devastating loss. Once the insured trusted and appreciated us they quit making angry phone calls to the adjuster! Simply put- I made adjuster Cheerleaders by consistently making a Cheerleader out of the insured!
Let me share some of the elements in my home owner Cheerleader script for a typical water loss. (To download my complete “Restoration Moment of Truth Checklist” for free just go to http://tiny.cc/SFSrmt ) The single most important part of the script starts with the client’s initial call.
Answer Your Phone 24-7
No one with Lake Erie in their living room will “leave a message”! And few will want to talk with an answering service no matter how skilled they are. You personally don’t need to take the call, just forward your business line after hours to your rotating on-call employee’s cell phone.
Develop a Phone Outline
Callers with a flooded home will be freaking out. Can you blame them? So your people must convey a sincere attitude of care and concern while subtly taking control of the conversation. Do so by immediately “taking ownership” of their problem:“I can help you with this.” Then ask for “permission to proceed”: “May I ask you a few questions?” Your employee now quickly fills out a short form to give you essential loss information: Name, address, phone numbers, insurance company and agent, water source and approximate quantity, etc.
Finally, take control by reviewing with the home owner a short “safety and logistics” list: “Here are some safety reminders, and also, this is what you can be working on till we get there.”
Most importantly, stress to the caller that “I will be calling out (your tech) immediately and he/she will be arriving within X minutes.” Give the customer your cell phone number so they can call back with any questions; hopefully they’ll call you instead of panicking while you are in route and call your competition! In fact, it is a good idea to call the client back within 10 minutes to verify that your techs are on their way and see how they are coping with their disaster.
Get There Fast!
We guaranteed one hour (or less) response time 24-7. Arriving quickly is a huge positive Moment of Truth plus it lets you “spike the job”. (Once I had extracted and placed equipment 80% of my profit was guaranteed- even if I later was kicked off the job by the insurance adjuster in favor of the insurance company’s preferred network vendor!)
The First Two Minutes Are Vital
If practical, park in the street where the customer can see your van. Your (hopefully) well-groomed employees should be in clean uniforms with clearly visible photo I.D. badges. After ringing the bell your lead tech should step back 3 feet, with the other employees behind him or her.
When the client opens the door look them in the eye, smile and clearly identify yourself: “Mrs. Jones, I’m Steve Toburen with J-D Restoration. You spoke with Bill Yeadon, our Operations Manager, around 45 minutes ago about your water intrusion. This is my helper …” Hand the customer your business card.
Now simply look down at your clipboard: “Mrs. Jones, would you please show me the source of the water? I’d like to test how far it has spread. And while you and I are doing the Loss Evaluation is it OK if (name of helper) starts setting up our equipment?”
Note: Before stepping in place a clean door mat and wipe your feet. If you have to cross clean areas to access the water damage, have all employees use shoe covers and extra caution bringing in equipment.
Subtly guide this initial tour by interviewing the homeowner. “Can you give me a tour of the affected areas and as we go please show me anything you are concerned about. I’ll also be checking areas that may not appear to be wet for any hidden water intrusion.” Be sure to ask permission before opening any closed doors, cabinets, furniture, etc.
During this inspection be sure to listen carefully and take immediate action on what the client says or shows you. Immediate action techniques include writing down their answers, testing areas they point out and/or immediately tagging for special handling any possession the home owner is concerned about. Questions in our On-site Initial Interview/Inspection Water Damage form included:
1. “Have you identified where the water came from? Has the in-flow been stopped? Would you please show me?”
2. “Are there any unsafe conditions that you know of? For example, are any electrical items or plugs wet? (If so, “Where is your breaker box?”) Are any ceilings sagging due to water?”
3. “Does anyone in the family have any unusual health issues?”
4. “Do you have any special concerns? Are there any items of unusual value in the affected areas? Has anything been damaged with extra sentimental value?"
Loss Review/Damage Containment Planning
After your interview/tour, you should have the “big picture” of both the homeowner’s concern/emotional condition and the actual loss. So now it is time to tie things up with a planning session. If practical, try to sit down with the client in separate area. Here is what our form included:
1. “Let me review your concerns and questions …”
2. “Here is what we will be doing right now as part of what we call Damage Containment. (Itemize the steps you will be doing on this visit and the equipment you will place along with your estimated time for drying.) This Damage Containment phase will dry and stabilize the home and prevent further damage. This first step will also allow you time to coordinate between your insurance company and our office.”
3. “Before we begin I need a signature allowing us to start work …”
Note: For a free download of my “On-site Initial Interview/Inspection Water Damage” form just go to http://tiny.cc/SFSwd
Keep the Customer Involved
If the home owner is interested always explain what you are doing and the purpose of each piece of equipment. Keep technical jargon to a minimum and use simple illustrations to explain what you are doing. Display a “Sense of Urgency” and avoid personal chit-chat.
As you are finishing up the initial work simply say, “Let me review with you what we’ve done…” Show the home owner around and explain your internal paperwork including your Moisture Control Monitoring Sheet. Then explain what is going to happen next: “Here is the next step in the process…” Give the client a reasonable time line and what their responsibilities are. (Including contacting their insurance company.) Be sure to double check the client’s contact phone numbers and how you will access their home for moisture monitoring/equipment checks.
Thank You and Good-Bye
“Mrs. Jones, I’ve enjoyed meeting you even under these unhappy circumstances! If you have any questions just call me. Do you still have my card? Here, let me write my cell phone number on the back. We really appreciate your business and if you have been happy with our work please tell your insurance agent and adjuster that you are pleased!”
Wow! If your company can consistently follow this script I guarantee your clients with water damaged dwellings will be delighted and sing your praises to their adjuster! The result? You will create Adjuster Cheerleaders that will maneuver, manipulate and fight to get your company in on their losses- because you will have brought “peace to their valley”!