Making Peace on the Restoration Home Front - Part II

January 13, 2009
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It doesn’t matter how positive a person usually is, this isn’t fun for any homeowner.


No part of our industry is more fraught with emotional perils than dealing with a traumatized, trembling and terrified customer suffering from a badly damaged home. Last month we learned that these battered and beat-up folks are suffering from Acute Stress Disorder. ASD is the mind’s and body’s response to feelings (both perceived and real) of intense helplessness. Symptoms may include anxiety, impaired judgment, confusion, detachment and depression. And so it is with your typically distraught restoration client.

The big problem here? More often than not, both the adjuster and the restoration contractor are completely ignorant of the Emotional Dynamics of the Restoration Home Front. The result is “blood on the tracks,” with all parties involved left confused, wounded and bitter. So sad, because all of these negative feelings are primarily due to not working with the “messed up” emotions of the homeowner.

Don’t forget that as a “first responder” to this disaster, you are already behind the eight ball emotionally. The homeowner is
  • Overwhelmed
  • Angry and
  • Scared to death

Ignore this at your peril! Don’t let “hostility transference” kick in and find yourself to be lumped in with either the disaster or the normally adversarial relationship between the homeowner and the insurance adjuster.

You, as a “restoration peacemaker,” must walk the thin line between coordinating and cooperating with the adjuster while not being seen as an “insurance company stooge” by your legal customer, the homeowner. This need not be an impossible mission. Remember, you will definitely make a Cheerleader out of the adjuster if you make a Cheerleader out of his or her insured, the homeowner, who then:
  • Will not call and scream at the adjuster, and
  • Will settle the claim faster and more reasonably

If you can consistently do this, insurance adjusters will actually maneuver and scheme to get you in on their losses!

Make sure your manner conveys the right message

Remember that 80 percent of how traumatized homeowners become Cheerleaders for your company is based on how they feel about the people they encounter as their restoration process unfolds. So your job is to hire quality, caring people who are oriented on the Restoration Emotional Dynamics cited above, and pre-program positive Moments of Truth in to your normal work flow. Here are some thoughts on how to program “good feelings” into your routine production procedures:
  1. Balance the “Restoration Universe” by countering every negative emotion with a positive one. We’ve already focused on the raw and bleeding emotions of a traumatized homeowner. You must now consistently deliver positive emotions that will calm and reassure these beat-up folks. For example, warm feelings such as care, concern, empathy, competence, trust and – dare I say it – love will give you incredible results if you can consistently program and deliver them during every job. Achieve your consistency goal by…
  2. Working on your culture first. The culture of a company is best defined as “It is just the way we do things around here.” In a small company this sub-current is based on the vision, goals and values of the owner. Properly communicated, these values will guide your people when all your scripts, procedures and systems break down. However, even the very best people find it exhausting to constantly be improvising. Therefore, proactive restoration companies pick their battles by…
  3. Making it easier to do it right than do it wrong. Think carefully here. In your company, is it easier for an employee to make a Cheerleader out of a customer or easier to not make a Cheerleader? My guess is, right now, the latter is true. Any customer with a damaged home is just loaded with emotional land mines that an unwitting worker can set off completely by accident. Eliminate the stress for your employees by giving them a step-by-step Value Added Service script to follow in your customer’s home. Behavioral scientists tell us the most critical time in any relationship is…
  4. The first two minutes. Subconsciously, your restoration client will decide almost immediately if they trust your employee or doubt their honesty and/or competence. (And if you are going to make peace, trust is vital.) Yet most restoration companies leave this essential window entirely up to chance, and therefore suffer the consequences of a suspicious and/or antagonized customer as the job unfolds. Crazy, huh? Given the almost irrational emotional state of typical homeowner involved in a loss, it is vital to win their confidence right from the git-go. Here are some pointers to include in your restoration script:
    1. Focus on your phone. Your script begins long before technician knocks on the door. The first few seconds on the phone with a traumatized and frazzled homeowner may decide whether you even get the job! (Especially with emergency water losses, a trained, live person must answer your phone 24-7!) Your phone dispatcher should be warm and concerned, but also efficient and crisp. There will be a time for reassurance and hand-holding on the job, but right now the focus should be on getting the vital information you need so that your people can respond quickly.
    2. Display a sense of urgency. It is very dangerous to leave a restoration customer stewing and fretting alone in their damaged home. Not only are you leaving the job dangling without a signed work authorization, it is a wonderful positive Moment of Truth when you give a home owner immediate response. (Our guarantee was one hour or less response time 24-7 on emergency water losses.)
    3. Appearance matters. There is a concept we call “Putting on the Customer’s Eyeglasses” or learning to see what your client sees. May I suggest that you look at your employees through the eyes of a first time (and extremely agitated) restoration customer? How would you feel looking through the peephole of your front door at your employees? You can and should set reasonable grooming, personal hygiene and posture standards for your workers. A uniform service will deliver freshly laundered and pressed uniforms every week at a very reasonable cost. Bonus Hint: Purchase photo I.D. badges for all your employees. I.D badges are a very professional and reassuring Moment of Truth for the homeowner and anyone can wear them!
  5. Remember “personal space.” These beat up restoration customers already are intimidated. They certainly don’t need any “close-talkers” intruding into their personal space! Remind your employees to step back at least three feet from the door after ringing the bell. Additional employees should be down one step and further back yet in plain sight when the door opens. Insist that your employees avoid “horsing around” while waiting for the door to open. Peepholes and web cams mean the restoration “stage play” starts when the van comes into sight of the house. (Which means that employees should exit the vehicle immediately when arriving at the job, and never walk on the grass!)
  6. Eye contact/ smile. Remember, it is not just the homeowner who is scared and intimidated. Your employees are nervous too. It isn’t easy for your 22-year-old technician to start a professional relationship with someone twice his age and 10 times his salary level! So train your employees to look the customer in the eye, smile and…
  7. Introduce themselves. Leave nothing to chance here, including the exact words your employees use when starting their relationship with the customer:
    1. “Good morning, Mrs. Jones. I am Steve Toburen with ST Restoration. Here is my business card.” (Every one of your employees should have their own personalized business cards.)
    2. “We’re here to restore (list out a few of the items/tasks noted on their work order.)”
    3. “This is my co-worker, (Give the full name of your fellow employee). He (or they) will be helping (briefly explain what each of your co-worker’s assignment will be in the home.)”

    At this point in the loss, you received the initial call less than an hour ago (At least I hope you responded this quickly!) and you have spent less than two minutes so far on the customer’s door step. Yet thanks to working with the Emotional Dynamics of the loss you are well on your way to making peace on the Restoration Home Front. How? By making a Cheerleader out of both the home owner and the insurance adjuster!

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