This is part 4 in a 4 part series
We’ve had a chance to talk about customer service as a whole, it’s role in the claims industry, and how much it means to us here at AdjusterPro. But are customer service skills something you need day to day while on the job? Is there a place for care and empathy in an industry where carriers and their policyholders want things done as quickly as possible? Is exceptional customer service really that important for a claims adjuster?
To answer those questions, we sought help from our friend and AdjusterPro Alumni, Evan Mason. Fun Fact: Evan is the thumb’s up guy you’ve seen on our website for a long time.
He’s a self-described ‘hard-working country boy’ from Oklahoma…an Eagle Scout in fact. After the events of September 11th, he joined the Army and served 3 years on active duty in Iraq. Upon returning, he spent some time in construction and eventually found himself at a desk selling insurance.
After a few years as an insurance producer, Evan had the opportunity to shadow a claims adjuster. There were a lot of things he found exciting about the position. It was a good fit for his military and construction experience. It looked like a hands-on job where he wouldn’t be strapped to a desk all day, every day. But what really appealed to him, he told me, was the opportunity to give someone a check instead of taking one.
So Evan signed up for our ICAP course (no longer available), and after obtaining his license, went to work as an independent adjuster. I had the chance to talk with him while he was on deployment in Northern California, where he’s spent most of 2017 working weather and flood-related claims.
Evan with AdjusterPro co-founders Adam Gardiner and Dan Kerr
WHAT ARE THE MOST REWARDING AND CHALLENGING PARTS OF THE JOB?
Going into large loss situations can be extremely challenging. People are often very upset, and with good reason. They might have lost their home, their car, their valuables, or in worst case scenarios, all the above. But it also offers the greatest reward because as an adjuster, you feel like you are in a position to help. While I can’t always fix everything, being able to provide some relief, some hope, and yes, some money, feels good. Ultimately, adjusting is a career I am proud of and one where I feel like I make a difference.
As an adjuster, I feel like I’m in a position to help.
On a day to day basis, keeping up with the overwhelming number of claims can be tough. When I started, I was immediately assigned 85 claims and had to schedule appointments a month in advance. Obviously not an ideal situation for me or the claimants. But if you’re not prepared, if you don’t stay on top of your schedule and keep your nose to the grindstone, things can overwhelm you and get out of control very quickly. And as an independent adjuster, you are your own boss. That is great when it’s smooth sailing. But you also bear the sole responsibility when things don’t go well.
ARE CUSTOMER SERVICE SKILLS IMPORTANT FOR AN ADJUSTER?
You have to have good customer service skills as a claims adjuster. Without a doubt. I’ve known and seen some unfriendly, and sometimes downright mean adjusters over the years. But they rarely last. It just doesn’t work in this business.
I believe that more than anything else right now, carriers want their policyholders treated with respect…and that takes good customer service skills. The marketplace is more competitive than ever and companies are doing everything they can to hold onto customers. And since adjusters are on the front lines of communicating with claimants in their time of need, you have to have the heart to take care of people so they stay with that carrier. I always try to be understanding and empathetic with the policyholders. Honestly, I really just try to treat everyone like my grandma. Sometimes that’s easier said than done but at the end of the day, even when Grandma was angry with me, I knew better than to yell or get mad back. So I’d say ‘yes ma’am’ and ‘no ma’am’ and try to do better next time.
Carriers want their policyholders treated with respect…and that takes good customer service skills.
One of the reasons great customer service skills are so sought after, I think, is because even small losses can really shake people. While I might just see a minor fender bender or a broken window, the situation may really scare a claimant. So I try not to assume that something is ‘no big deal.’ Or worse, give the claimant the feeling that I have bigger problems I need to be dealing with. When the claimant sees that the adjuster really cares about their problem and wants to make it right? That’s great customer service in this field.
HAVE YOU BEEN IN A SITUATION THAT TESTED YOUR CUSTOMER SERVICE SKILLS?
Definitely. Like most adjusters, I’ve had a few claims and claimants that tested my service skills. The toughest ones for me have been large loss situations where the policyholders were under-insured. Sitting there trying to explain to someone who just lost everything that, while they do have some insurance, they aren’t fully covered for this? It kind of breaks your heart because how do you tell that to someone? There’s no good way.
It can also be challenging when other people who think they know the situation get involved and try and take over. Whether it’s a family member with good intentions or a contractor with bad ones, it can take every customer service skill in your arsenal to stay cool, calm, and professional.
WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU’D KNOWN BEFORE STARTING?
I wish I had started working on improving my career and personal development earlier. I walked away from military service young and full of pride, thinking I knew way more than I did. But in this industry that won’t take you very far. Humility and professionalism are what carry you in this business. Understanding that you don’t know everything and you still have more to learn, then working hard to do that, is what will make you a successful adjuster.
This is the hardest I’ve ever worked, and that includes Army training and combat experience. But in the military, everything was decided for me. Sure, the work was stressful and exhausting, but at the same time, every minute of my day was planned by someone else. I just did what I was told.
But as an adjuster, I have to determine the best ways and methods to get the job done. Success or failure rests in MY hands. So I think it’s really important to have a plan for your own personal and professional growth. A plan to always keep improving. While I am not always able to reach my goals, I strive to do something that makes me a little bit better every day…be it customer service, scheduling, or learning new tools.
ANY ADVICE FOR THOSE STARTING OUT?
It’s really pretty easy…JUST DO IT!
I know it sounds kind of cheesy, but honestly, to be successful in this business, you have to want it and you have to go after it hard! I meet and see new adjusters all the time and they always have the same questions. Should I get this certification? Should I attend this event? Join this group? Do I need to get on this roster or that roster? Should I take this little opportunity that’s not really what I want?
My answer to any and all of those questions is YES!!!
So many adjusters are at or near retirement age and new ones are needed. But by the same token, these companies aren’t just going to hand you a job because you have a license. They want to see proof you are up to the hard work required to be a successful claims adjuster. You have to think of getting a job like its a tryout for the actual job. Hustle to get noticed. Show them how hard you are willing to work. Go to networking events and shake hands and hand out business cards. Don’t wait for answers or opportunities to come to you – go get them! Take any deployment opportunity and get to work. That’s the difference between a 50K earner and a $100k earner…going after it. Hard.
I compare being a new adjuster in today’s industry to being a surfer. (Author’s note – this is likely what happens to folks who spend time deployed in California.) You know the wave is coming but unless you are paddling, it will pass you by. We know there is a ton of opportunity in insurance, but only those who are prepared and ready will be able to take advantage of it.
Adjusting claims in Tahoe is tough work…but someone’s gotta do it.
WHAT’S BEEN THE BIGGEST SURPRISE?
I’ve been really surprised at how supportive my IA Firm managers have been. I had heard some horror stories when starting out but that hasn’t been my experience at all. I’ve worked for two of the big players and, as a whole, my managers have been devoted to helping me succeed. Ultimately, if I’m successful, then it helps them be successful. So it’s in their best interests to help you find your strengths and get better.
As an adjuster, you have to respect that managers know way more than you do so they can often see your strengths before you can. Early in my career, managers helped me see that I was just better at being an outside adjuster. I tried auto claims for a while, thinking I needed to diversify, but it wasn’t long before my manager saw it wasn’t my strong suit. But he saw the opposite in my co-worker. My buddy was great on the phone and actually preferred the predictability of desk life. Our manager noticed both of our strengths, and weaknesses, and put us where we had the best chance to succeed. It relates back to what Adam wrote about in the second article the series: Managers want to succeed and helping their adjusters perform well will get them there.
As we all watch the claims industry shift and rely more on technology, it is important to remember that customer service still has a role to play in the new dispensation. It is a sought-after skill set and one that carriers and firms highly value. Thank you so much to Evan Mason – for this insight and help with this article, and for his service to our country. We appreciate you!
Catch up on the rest of our Exceptional Customer Service series below!