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When negotiating for a restoration job or when seeking more job leads, there are three initial questions you need to ask yourself:
1. What does the policy holder, agent or adjuster want?
2. What does the policy holder, agent or adjuster absolutely not want to happen?
3. What does the policy holder, agent or adjuster expect to happen?
The policy holder
For example, when working with a policy holder (the homeowner) who says, “We have a new baby in the house and I’m afraid that all the chemicals you use to disinfect after the sewage back-up can be really harmful,” she just told you that she wants some sort of alternative to any strong chemicals you might have planned to use.
And you know that other companies might have told her about their use of the standard compounds, ozone generators, etc. But she is telling you her desires in the hope that you might come up with something different.
She does not want you to use products that are harsh or potentially harmful to her family. This statement is not saying you even possess these types of products. Just look around and think about what you already have that will alleviate your customers’ concerns and fulfill your customers’ expectations.
This is all about educating the homeowner. She expects the work to be done in a manner that protects her family. If you are the one who meets her request in the most cogent manner, odds are dramatically improved that yours will be the company she will choose.
Now, let’s say that you want more job leads from insurance agents. You might think that they:
1. Want the job to go easily and problem-free.
2. Don’t want a call from a homeowner telling about shoddy workmanship.
3. Expect that a given homeowner may not like the way everything went, but accept that the job is done and can move back in.
But wait! Is that what the agent really wants? If you dig a little deeper, you will find that the agent prefers that the job go well, but he really wants a policy renewal when the time comes.
An agent can only make money in one of two ways: First, sell new policies. Second, get policies renewed. With insurance companies putting commercials on the air inviting customers to “go online” to create a new policy with them, that part of the agent’s income is in decided jeopardy because the public is being invited to bypass the agent completely.
And if an agent can’t get his clients to renew their policies because they think they can get better service elsewhere, suddenly his income is threatened in ways it never has been before.
So, what does an agent really, really want?
1. An agent wants renewals.
2. An agent wants his clients to keep their existing policies.
3. An agent wants you to do your job.
How can you get more job leads from an agent? Make sure he gets policies renewed on every job you perform, and make sure he knows you are responsible for the renewals.
How can you do that? Last year, my friend John Otero provided a great tip in a Cleanfax article entitled Marketing to Insurance Agents. I would like to elaborate a little on what he said.
Picture this: You walk into your favorite insurance agent’s office and say, “Bob, I need a stack of your business cards.” And he says, “What for?” You respond, “Because at the beginning of each job I normally give a little gift, like a flower arrangement or a little basket of soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, in case they have to relocate for a little while, or maybe an assortment of popcorn, nuts… you know, comfort foods. And I usually put in my business card, or make sure my logo is on the basket or I do something else so that they know the basket or flowers came from me. But from now on, every customer you send to me will get the same type of gifts, only my name, my company name and my logo will not be seen anywhere on the gifts. Yours will be, along with a short note, maybe something like, ‘Don’t worry, I’m only a phone call away.’”
At this point, you have the agent’s attention! But there is more… Now, you say: “And at the end of the job we’ll send another little gift with your card and a note saying something like, ‘I’m still here… welcome home.’” (That “welcome home” part is credited to my friend Kent Riddle.)
Regardless, the agent should already be doing the “dance of joy” because you have put him in a very strong position to get a policy renewal — a position he would not have enjoyed without you!
And what does an adjuster want? Not want? And expect? Adjusters will tell you that they want:
1. The job done quickly.
2. The job done cheaply.
3. The job well done (at least within industry standards).
What they don’t want are customer complaints, cost adjustments and, above all else, they don’t want to hear from their managers that their judgment is being questioned and the invoice is “in review.”
They expect that there will be some disappointment on the part of the customer and that there may be some questions (by them) as to the accuracy of your bill. No problem there, but when their boss gets involved, that is their biggest “don’t want” of all.
What can you do about that? How can you help adjusters to get their bosses to think of them in a positive way that might include bonuses and promotions?
Here are a couple of quick tips that my friend Kent Riddle (a most clever contractor in Tennessee) and I thought up one rainy afternoon. You may think of several more.
First, we started adding a little sheet to the invoices that were submitted at the end of the job. The extra sheet simply reflected all the money that the contractor had saved the insurance company.
You do it anyway. Any time you restore instead of replace, any time you save something that would have cost more to “cash out,” you have saved the insurance company money. And when you can give them a sheet that itemizes such savings, it makes the assets more real. Sort of like what occurs at Wal-Mart when the cashier announces, “…and you saved $8.41 on your purchases today.”
The adjuster may snicker the first time he sees it. His manager may think of it as just a “contractor trick.” But, about the third or fourth time you do it, they both will have a small “deck of invoices” that provides evidence that you are saving a small fortune for them.
When the manager calls to ask, “Bob, is that contractor with those weird invoices really saving that kind of money for us?”
And Bob says, “You bet boss. I checked them out every time myself.”
Then, the manager is likely to say, “Great, let’s see if we can get them some more work.”
But you aren’t done yet.
Train your people to “catch the adjuster doing something right.” If he does anything noteworthy — shows up a couple of times to see how things are going, or “OKs” a piece of equipment you wanted to use — make it into a bigger deal than it might ordinarily be. Tell the homeowner, “You have a remarkably good adjuster on this job,” or words to that effect (and use the “something right” to illustrate your point).
Then, at the end of the job, when you get your testimonial (after the final walkthrough), make sure the owner is ecstatic with your work and say, “How did we do?”
And the owner says, “You did a terrific job,” or some other superlative.
So, you suggest, “Thank you very much, would you mind jotting those words down on a piece of paper right now?” Hand over a clipboard with paper and pen. “Those sorts of testimonials might just help us find more work this year!”
Then you go for the gold, “Do you think you might renew your policy with the insurance company that brought us in?”
The owner says, “Sure! Like I said, you guys did a great job.”
And you finish with, “You know, your adjuster really did a fine job.” Recount a couple of instances where you can sing the adjuster’s praises, then say, “I am deeply grateful that you are writing those kind words about us. Would you consider saying just one nice thing about the adjuster? Hardly anyone ever does and I know he would appreciate it. In fact, if you could just say, ‘The adjuster was tough but fair and because of his efforts I will be renewing my policy,” it would mean a lot to him.
The “tough but fair” line is imperative (you don’t want the adjuster’s manager to think he was overly generous). And the fact that he had something to do with getting a policy renewed is worth its weight in platinum. Of course, they don’t have to use your exact words, but by giving them a hint, you are helping to guide them in the right direction.
Insurance companies can only make money one of two ways: Charge as much as they can and pay out as little as they can. When the manager sees that you saved them money by restoring various materials (on this adjuster’s watch) and that the insured is saying that he or she will renew because of him, that adjuster has just been elevated to a whole new status. No other adjuster will have received such accolades from any other clients that week (or most probably ever)!
He will want you to help him on the next job and the next and the next. Maybe he will even tell another adjuster about the extraordinary company that has done so much for his career.
Steven A. LaVelle M.A. entered the restoration arena seven years ago when he had the opportunity to interview “The Legends of Restoration.” He helped 38 of the restoration industry’s “movers and shakers,” contribute chapters to the book, “Insiders Secrets for a Successful Restoration Business.” At present, he is working with more than 50 companies as the Total Contentz marketer. His latest two restoration marketing and sales books are still numbered among the top sellers in the industry.