I wouldn’t wish my first deployment on my worst enemy.
I landed in the aftermath of a category 4 hurricane, was handed a stack of claims and a cellophane-wrapped CD that said “Xactimate” and that’s basically it. (Xactimate is the most popular estimating software for claims.) My new storm manager chuckled and with a twinkle in his eye, said “good luck” as he pushed me out the door. He didn’t expect me to make it. Thankfully, I did make it – partly due to pride, partly due to financial desperation – but it was hard. Really hard.
Out of all the challenges I faced, the greatest was getting a handle on Xactimate. It took me a solid week to write and submit my first Xactimate report (not joking)! I was warned that it would likely be ‘kicked back’ for revisions, and indeed it was, but after that week of hell, the requested changes seemed minor. I did my next claim faster, the third more so, and after a month or so I was on a roll. I made it over the hump. Sadly, many do not.
My storm manager later told me that he rarely fires anyone, however, tons of new adjusters basically fire themselves. They arrive en masse but by storms end they leave with their tail between their legs, having jumped in with insufficient preparation. The result was that too many new folks were never able to get their heads above water.
Now that I’ve been training adjusters for nearly a decade, I’m amazed I actually survived jumping into a catastrophe deployment without any Xactimate training or experience. I instruct on many important aspects of adjusting, but – by far – Xactimate is the largest and most difficult technical hurdle for new claims adjusters. On the other hand, once you really master Xactimate, it becomes one of your most powerful advantages, allowing you to close more claims accurately and with greater ease and less stress.
Xactimate proficiency is key to success as an adjuster. Not the only key, true, but you can be sure you’re not going to survive without it. I liken it to baseball; having a bat doesn’t mean you’re going to be a good ball player. But without one, you can be sure you’re not even going to play. Similarly, you’ll need to master many skills, but if you don’t have your license and Xactimate proficiency, you’re not even in the game yet.
If you’re middle-aged or above (like me), mastering new, complex computer programs like Xactimate can feel completely overwhelming, like an impossible hurdle. The good news is that anyone can master Xactimate. I know because I’ve watched it happen. I’ve witnessed great success in some of my most unlikely students. When I trained Debbie, she was in her late 50’s. She noticed that, in our class, the younger folks seemed to “get it” twice as fast. Her resolution? Work twice as hard! Early in her career, her coworkers made fun of her late-night practice, but her work paid off in spades. The last time I talked to her, she called me looking to hire good candidates to work for her. She had started and was running her own claims company, working directly for an insurance carrier who was sending her all of their large loss claims business.
So how exactly does one master Xactimate? I recommend two things; good training and lots of practice.
I divide training into two basic categories; technical and practical. Most training out there is technical, and that’s fine as it is needed. It’s geared to understanding and mastering the intricacies of the program, all of the small details. The problem I’ve seen in my decade of training is that folks who’ve only received technical training are ill-prepared to hit the ground running in a deployment and actually make money with Xactimate. I can’t count the number of folks I’ve had through my classes who have an Xactimate Certification, but don’t know how to efficiently and effectively close claims with this powerful tool!
Practical training, on the other hand, is geared towards working. I’m talking about closing claims, getting the job done, and making your deployments really count. Like technical training, good practical training should and will prepare you to pass Xactimate certification tests, but practical training does more. It truly teaches you how to use the software in actual, applicable situations. In our business, that’s claims. Remember that the ultimate goal here is making money and adjusters do that by efficiently and correctly closing claims. Our Tactical Xactimate class is specifically developed to get you ready to use Xactimate effectively in an insurance claim scenario.
Practice, Practice, Practice
When you deploy for the first time, you’ll get tons of practice. Trust me. But the problem is, once you are deployed, it is too late. Sure, your next job will go smoother but you stand to lose both money and the chance to impress your employer if you use your first deployment as practice. So go the extra mile beforehand. It will make a huge difference.
The most successful students I’ve seen continue practicing and learning after class, for as long as they can. Xactimate makes this easy for you. They offer a free 30-day demo you can use during training and afterward for practice. Most of the time if you call them, they’ll even extend it once or twice for you if you ask. That’s up to 90 days to scope and estimate your own house, your neighbor’s house, or the whole cul de sac! (We recommend asking for permission from your neighbors first. It looks weird otherwise.) It’s the exceptional student who’s serious enough about their adjusting career to do this, but it really works. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that the percentage of folks that succeed in this career is similar to the percentage of folks who care enough to practice Xactimate diligently before deployment.