by Gene Strother, President of Adjust U
At Mid-America Catastrophe Services, we are privileged to work with some of America’s best field and desk claims adjusters. Our top performers work as much as they want and earn six figures annually. More importantly, they are good people. They are empathetic, energetic, and efficient. They are effective because they have developed important habits that ensure their success.
This is the first of a two-part series on the habits of highly effective claims adjusters. In this post, we focus on the field adjuster, the one out there acting as the eyes, the ears, and the voice of both Mid-America and our carrier/client. The importance of this role cannot be overstated. This is the beachhead warrior, the first responder, the one initiating the taking back of that which was lost in the storm.
We polled our top 200 adjusters and asked them to list the most critical habits they have developed as field adjusters. The top seven habits listed here reflect their answers.
Clear and consistent communication
An adjuster is more than an estimator. Estimating the loss is just a small, but vital, part of what an adjuster must do. An adjuster interprets, applies, and explains the policy to the claimant or policyholder. An adjuster assuages fears, addresses concerns, and alleviates doubts. There are emotional, intellectual, and philosophical components in successful field claims adjusting.
Clear, concise, and consistent communication is key to mastering field adjusting.
Mark the adjuster points out that good communication with the insured, file review team, and management team is essential to success…
Communication skills, body language. Must be able to build rapport with insureds and have good listening skills. Eye contact – take off sun glasses – firm handshake. Have to be responsive to messages and be able to communicate with file reviewers and management.FA Mark H.
Norm expands on the importance of this skill as follows:
People skills and situational awareness with insureds, contractors, PA’s, carriers, firm/management, file review team etc. Walk in someone else’s shoes and determine the needs of all parties involved. Ultimately satisfying all parties quickly and accurately is the name of the gameNorm L.
Hone those communication skills and remember that communication is a two-way street. Be an active, attentive, and engaged listener. The better you listen and the more you understand the other’s point of view, the better chance you have of satisfying the questions, ensuring understanding, and securing consensus.
Adjuster Vincent writes,
This job is made for those with OCD. Be organized in everything that you do. EVERYTHING. How you pack, get hotels, eat, have your clothes prepped, your chargers, your backup laptop, backup camera, backup drone, spare tires, jumper cables, extra chalk, extra replacement pads for your cougar paws, extra metal gauge, extra batteries, and do everything to stay focused.Vincent J
As you can see, Vincent has a plan for deployment readiness. I always kept a “go bag” packed and ready. This business requires the field adjuster to scramble the jets and be in transit to a storm site in a matter of hours of notification. The front end of a major storm can be chaotic.Those who pre-plan and are thus prepared are the most successful. While others are floundering about, trying to gain their footing, these adjusters are bringing a calm to the storm.
Organization and focus. Have to have a system in place to stay organized and a daily routine. One thing at a time…. calls, driving, inspections, estimates, closings, revisions, new claim contacts… so many items to address. Must be able to focus on one thing at a time and not worry about holding the earth up like Charles Atlas. Inspection routine / methodology, double check you have all information and photos that you need prior to leaving the inspection.Mark H
Prompt turn-around for claims, we all sometimes get bogged down when the weather strikes, but write what you scope, and turn them in. The more you turn in more claims come your way.Jeff C
President Calvin Coolidge said, “The only difference between a mob and a trained army is organization.”
Disorganization will cost you time and money. It will cost you claims because the longer you take to get set up, the longer you take to close the claims you are allotted and the fewer claims you will be able or allowed to handle.
A few hours spent in preparation and organization can save you days or even years of frustration.
Health, Safety, and Mental Health
Separate life and work. Maybe the hardest thing about being an IA is it is ALL CONSUMING most of the time. Say no to new assignments when needed. Explain why. Shut the computer off when you have REALLY had enough. Take the wife out to dinner. Go to the kids game. Call your mom or dad. Work will be there when you get back. Most good IA firms realize this is important. If they don’t then stop working for them.Adjuster Kevin T
Life/work balance can be one of the great challenges for a catastrophe field adjuster. When the work is on, it is on. You are deployed, and deployed is a mighty big word. It has a military ring to it, doesn’t it? Rightfully so. You are in the heat of the battle, in the teeth of the storm, on the frontlines of disaster. Your days will be long, your sleep will be minimal. You will need the stamina and intestinal fortitude to “weather the storm”, especially in those first days or weeks of deployment. Time for leisure is minimal and when you do have those few hours to recharge your battery or catch up with the folks back home, it is essential you take full advantage.
Be healthy. Eat less. Take lots of walks at night to get your head straight. This job will steer you towards fast food. It is better to eat a healthy diet while on deployment than to work very hard for 5-10 years and have a heart attack because of your vocation.
Drink lots of water. If your are on your 4th roof of the day, it’s over 90 degrees outside and your haven’t had a lot of water, you may get dizzy and fall off a roof. Stay hydrated and wear a hat.Vincent J
Proper diet and exercise are important for the field adjuster. Vincent hit me where I live with his advice. I spent 10 years on the road, chasing storms all over North America. Seldom did I give thought to my health. I ate on the run and that was as close to running or exercising as I came. I guess I figured the job was physical enough by itself. Whatever the case, on July 4, 2022, I had a heart attack. I learned that the LAD artery was 99% blocked. I made it to the hospital in the nick of time.
Figure out the work/play balance and the best way to live on the road. RV vs hotel vs Airbnb. Find which situation works for you and become a master at it. Keep that credit good, bills paid and the taxman happy so you can relax when you want and stack the money when it’s there to go get.Norm L
Take care of your mental and physical health. Don’t neglect your family.
Make a habit to put important storm issues and guidelines near your worksapace to aid you in reviewing your estimates before uploading them.
Always review your estimate as if you were the file reviewer. This will save you time.Billy K
Develop help notes/cheat notes for the carriers.Jeff J
Keep a mileage log and envelope for your receipts for tax purposes.Daniel French
Billy and Jeff address having the right information at your fingertips to help you produce the best product possible. Daniel reminds you that, as a 1099 worker, you are your own boss and your own business; therefore, it is up to you to keep up with expenses, etc. for tax filing purposes.
Here’s a good habit…
Start your Inspect on each claim the same way every time. Explain to the insured how you want to start your inspection and stick to it. spend time listening to the insured.Terry S
A “good adjuster” who does a poor job handling his/her business will not long be an adjuster, or certainly not an effective one.
Attention to Detail / Pride in Craft
Learn. Take that CE class. Get another designation. Listen to the contractor/O&C/Engineer. The adjuster that thinks he knows everything definitely doesn’t.Kevin T
Kevin came real close to quoting me here. One of my favorite sayings is “The person who knows everything cannot learn anything.”
Inspection routine/methodology, double check you have all information and photos that you need prior to leaving the inspection. Master product ID and estimating software. Make it your mission to be a master of your craft.Mark H
As wise Solomon wrote, it is “the little foxes that spoil the vines.”
Most of the costly errors that cause delays in the claims process and thus cost the adjuster time and money are the little things: the missing photos, the mislabeled photos, missed measurements…
This is one of the reasons I like the following adjuster insight so much:
Compose your estimate the same day you scope the damage. Damage is fresh in your mind, thus missing damages most likely will not occur.Lenwood B
Scope and close! Scope and close! Don’t leave your notes and photos and memory on the backburner too long. There is no way a delayed file will be the same quality as one written while it is fresh.
Do not over scope. Stick to your schedule and keep it realistic. If you are working faster than expected, you can always schedule in a few extra claims.Jeff J
When you are requested to do a revision to one of your reports/estimates, make it your top priority. The sooner you get it done, the sooner you get paid.Daniel F
People skills and situational awareness with insureds, contractors, PA’s, carriers, firm/management, file review team, etc. Walk in someone else’s shoes and determine the needs of all parties involved. Ultimately, satisfying all parties quickly and accurately is the name of the game.Norm L
What Norm wrote just sounds like a lesson learned on the job, in the school of hard knocks. Most of the lasting lessons come that way. How much better is it to learn from someone else’s experience than to experience the hard lesson yourself, though?
Ability to understand others sides. Desk adjusters, reviewers, homeowners, contractors. Everyone has their ideas and opinions, you have to accept some and deal with others in a positive way.Brad G
Empathy is a word we use with abandon at Mid-America Catastrophe Services and at Adjust U. I will tell you this: I was in this industry for more than a decade and never heard the word uttered. Then, I began to teach its importance at Mid-America and Adjust U and now every firm in the space is preaching empathy like they invented it. It doesn’t matter, though, how much they – or we – talk about it if we don’t live it.
A mile in someone else’s shoes might hurt your feet but it will definitely straighten your walk. And you can quote me on that.
Always speak with the customers and be polite. It is part of an inspection. Do not ever think that it is not part of the inspection. Engage with the customer. This is so important. I always try to find some way to clear that divide that the customer and I are strangers. I always thank them for allowing me on their land or in their home to do their inspection. This only takes 5-10 minutes, but it is a few minutes that will send your career as an adjuster in a positive direction.Vincent J
Be kind and professional to people. This is a people industry and if we practice the principle of being courteous and kind, things will go a lot better from beginning to end in the process.Fred G
Have a helping heart and do not get discouraged with reopens/corrections or needy insureds.Mark H
Someone long ago said, “They won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
One of the Mid-America core beliefs is this: If you don’t win the technology race, you lose.
I admit that may have a little Ricky Bobby “If you’re not first, you’re last” quality to it but it is true as it can be. My first year in this business was 2005. I was getting and sending claim information via DHL or Fed Ex and handwriting “border rows.” The industry has changed exponentially since I entered it and I am a relative short-timer.
You can no longer effectively serve as a field claims adjuster without solid computer and software skills.
Typing – if you are hen pecking … slowing you down. I guess in todays age maybe use of a voice to print software. If not Mavis Beacon Teaches typing course is cheap and works in about 40 days. Good skill to work on during down time.Mark H
Learn to use Xactimate mobile (especially LiDAR sketching) and do as much as you can “on-site” especially labeling photos. So much time is spent labeling photos and trying to figure out what slope that was that had the damage.Vincent J
Continuing education is not just about getting required CE credits for license renewal. Never let it just be about that. Choose to learn, instead. Choose to grow. Choose to add new tools – especially technical skills – to your toolbelt.
From some of the most successful adjusters out there running claims as I write, we have given you 7 Habits of Highly Effective Field Adjusters:
- Clear and consistent communication
- Health, safety, and mental health
- Diligent note-taking
- Attention to detail/pride in craft
- Software/technical skills
Success is not an overnight thing. It is not an accident. It is not the result of good luck. Success is the result of good habits. It is not one giant thing but a million little things piled one upon the other. Just like bad habits are hard to break, good habits are hard to form. That is why there are way more people in the median of the success/failure spectrum. There is a reason we call it average.
Only you can decide what kind of field adjuster you want to be. Only you can decide what habits are worth forming and which ones ought to be broken in order to better yourself and further your career.
Coming in June
In our next post, we will discuss the 7 habits of the highly effective desk adjuster, as provided by our top Mid-America Catastrophe Services DAs.