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When I first got into CAT adjusting, I was completely new to the industry.  My first storm manager gave me an ominous warning; “Adam, I’ve never fired a CAT adjuster, but I’ve seen many, many new adjusters fire themselves.”  It didn’t take me long to figure out what he was talking about.  CAT adjusting is fantastic, rewarding, challenging, lucrative work, but it’s not easy money.  There are lots of skills to master, and it takes perseverance and character.

Today I want to write about just two aspect of why new CAT Adjusters sometimes fire themselves; lack of time management and communication skills regarding scheduling and expectations.  In this blog post, tips on how to deal with the first call.

My new Storm Manager handed me a big, scary looking stack of claims (at that storm and at that time they were actually hard-copies), and wished me good luck.  I knew I had to call them ASAP because he told me so in no uncertain terms.  As soon as I started calling I found out that almost everyone wants their claim handled first, and they want you there inspecting their loss yesterday!  Luckily, my new storm manager gave me some sage advice.  He told me that when I have a huge stack of claims to call everyone ASAP to make contact, and then later call back to schedule after you have a better understanding of their situation. (disclaimer; every claims company and storm manager has their own requirements, so be sure to do what they ask.  I’m just sharing my experience with some helpful principles I’ve learned that fit with the claims companies that I’ve worked for).  This was great advice.  I made contact with everyone I could reach by phone as quickly as I could.  Here’s some of the things that I discovered were important during that initial call:

a)    introduce myself properly.  This is more important than you might think.  My introduction went something like this: “Hello, is this Mrs. Fishbaum?  My name is Adam Gardiner, and I will be your Insurance Adjuster for your Hurricane claim.”  After some brief formalities, I would ask “Ma’am, do you have a pen and paper?  I’d like to give you some important information.”  When they had the pen and paper, I made darn sure they had my name and phone number (often the claims company that you work for will assign you a toll-free number and an extension.  My experience is that it is better to use this method of contact than to give them your personal cell-phone, because they will often call at bizarre times and for years to come if they can call you directly).  Communication is very important, and it’s essential that they can reach you if they need you.  If they can’t reach you, they’ll call anyone and everyone to try to get their agenda accomplished.  I don’t want them calling other folks when I’m the one responsible; it makes insurance carriers, storm managers (and sometimes even insurance commissioners) mad.

b)   What’s the best way to contact them? Often, the claims company gives me several phone numbers for the claimant.  Sometimes none of them work!  I do all I can to reach them, including but not limited to reverse-address lookups and sometimes even calling their insurance Agent when I can’t reach them.  When I do get them on the horn, I make sure I’ve got the very best phone number(s) for them and any other folks involved, such as Public Adjusters, contractors, lawyers, etc. (how to properly deal with these folks varies from state-to-state, carrier-to-carrier, and is a whole other blog post!).

c)    Ask them how they are and what happened.  I find that people like to talk about themselves and what happened to them.  This helps me to a) make a connection with them (they see I care and that I’m listening), and b) lets me “listen between the lines” to find out what really happened and how urgent their situation really is.  By doing this I am also able to begin to detect what kind of person they are and how I need to deal with them.  The golden rule says “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, but there’s another rule I’ve heard that’s even better in this situation: “do unto others they way that would like to be done unto.”  In other words, how do they want to be treated?  For example, let’s say Mrs. Fishbaum corrects me when I call her “Mrs. Fishbaum” – she says “excuse me, that’s Dr. Fishbaum!”  Or perhaps she tells me she’s an engineer, and she’s compiled several reports for me to review when I arrive (God help me).  I’ve just gained some valuable insights into how she likes to be treated.  This is important because if you communicate with people in they way that they like to be communicated with, you’ll be better able to control the situation and you can make the entire situation go much smoother.  This isn’t to say that one must kowtow to the claimant’s every whim, just that “one catches more flies with honey than with vinegar”, and conflict wastes valuable time in a storm.  Listen and get to know them.

d)   Explain their rights, duties, etc.  After they tell me about what’s going on with them, I am starting to get a better idea of their situation.  For instance, let’s say Dr. Fishbaum had a large tree fall across her house.  Is it still lying across the roof?  Did it cause damage that allowed water entry?  If so, it is still allowing water entry into the dwelling?  Have they hired a contractor to attempt to either remove the tree or tarp the damage to protect their property from further damage?  Do they have a receipt?  Did the contractor break down the costs of tree removal (often a homeowners policy will allow for removal of the tree from the structure, but not the disposal of the tree, or some variation of this)?  There’s a lot to discuss, but basically I’m making sure the claimant knows all their rights and duties for their good and to make sure my processing of this claim goes smoothly.  If I take this opportunity to explain duties and responsibilities carefully, I can get lots of stuff taken care of before I even visit the property.  For instance, I can have the insured efax me the properly broken-down receipt for the tree removal and the tarp/roof repair, or perhaps have a copy waiting for me when I arrive.  I don’t want to have a claim open waiting for an insured to try to gather this information!  Remember, the claims company and the carrier are eagerly awaiting this closed claim, and I don’t get paid till it’s closed properly and fully.

I’ll list the other important info to gather in the next post. NOTE – This type of stuff is covered in detail in our Adjusting 101 class!

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you soon!

– Adam

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