During the COVID-19 outbreak, we need to work differently but the work doesn’t stop. Damage still happens and people will still make claims, but we need to work smarter regarding what claims need an inspection.
One of the CDC recommendations is avoiding close contact to help stop the spread of the disease. Others are better trained to tell you about that. Let’s focus on what claims, handlers can do in settling homeowners and commercial property damage claims efficiently and effectively while protecting themselves and our customers.
Talk to the customer about what they would like to happen
Communication with the customer and creating a relationship is the most important element in the claim process. Discuss the situation regarding inspections and the precautions being taken to avoid spreading the disease with the customer. Get their feedback and their thoughts about how they want their claim handled.
Consider the customer’s age and health when making decisions. Hopefully, this can come through on your normal conversations with the customer but you may have to ask some leading questions. Be sensitive and understanding, you don’t want it to appear that you are grilling the customer about their health.
Is the claim is something that needs an inspection right now. Is it a situation affects how the customer lives? Will the damage continue to worsen? If not, consider delaying the inspection if the customer is amenable to it. You just need to properly keep track of the claim and follow up with the customer to make them aware that they haven’t been forgotten, and to check that circumstances haven’t changed.
Discuss any coverage issues upfront and follow the state’s regulations on inspections and letters to stay in compliance.
Consider the capabilities of the customer
Often the customer can help you get all the information that you need to write an estimate. However, you will need to have a conversation about what you are asking them to do and decide about their capabilities.
In the best-case scenario, the customer may be able to measure and email you a diagram of the rooms and pictures of the damage. At the least, almost all customers will be able to send you photos of the room and the damage.
If the customer doesn’t have a way to measure, depending on the room, there are other ways to get basic measurements. Counting of tiles on the floor or from a drop ceiling can give you some basis of measurements and have proven effective in writing estimates.
Consider your capabilities and stretch yourself
You will make mistakes. Put that in your head right now. Also, it is a good thing to make mistakes. That means you are stretching your capabilities. What is most important is when you make mistakes you learn from them and don’t make them again.
Writing a phone estimate will take time. Give yourself enough time to spend with the customer so that you can do everything you need to do. Initially, this may seem like you are wasting too much time, but as your skills increase you will become more efficient.
Write the estimate while you are talking with the customer. This may seem awkward at first, but it will become more comfortable. Ask the customer about the rooms damaged and try and get some basic idea of the size and type of damage. Follow a top to bottom (ceiling to floor) or bottom to top methodology and talk to the customer about the damage they see and the approximate amount of damage.
Once you have an outline, ask the customer to send you some overview pictures and close-ups of the damage. When you have the photos, you can refine your estimate as needed and settle over the phone.
Seek advice from those who have the skills you need
We all know someone better than you at something. Do not be afraid to ask for feedback and get tips from them. You will develop your skills and then become someone others go to for tips and feedback.
If they have the time you can ask someone to review your estimate or even sit with you as you write one to help you develop the skill set. I have seen many claim adjusters move from fear to being an outstanding phone scoper and estimate writer in very little time.
Does the customer have a contractor?
Sometimes you may have a customer who already has a contractor with an estimate. Obtain a copy of the estimate and see if it has all the information you need to write a comparative estimate. If you need additional information contact the customer and the contractor to get what you need. I would also recommend asking the customer to send an overview and detailed damage pictures to help you with any reconciliation.
Were vendors involved?
If you have a loss where a mitigation company was involved they can almost always provide you with photographs and a detailed scope of damages with a diagram. Get all of this information as well as some photos from the customer and you should be all set to write an estimate.
Follow healthy guidelines
If you do have to inspect a loss, be certain to follow healthy guidelines to protect yourself and your customers.
Wash your hands before and after every inspection. Do not touch your face while you are completing the inspection until you can wash your hands again. You can consider using a mask and gloves but you still need to make certain you are washing your hands before and after an inspection.
You also need to clean and disinfect your computer and phone before and after each inspection if you use them during the inspection. Even if you don’t use them during an inspection it is still a good idea to clean them throughout the day.
Consider this an opportunity
These are strange days but we still have customers who need us. Consider this an opportunity to increase your skills set. Think of new and better ways to handle claims faster and with outstanding customer service. Get better at estimating with information that is available to you so you can settle without inspection in the future.
Be safe. Be helpful. Be good.