Quote of the Day

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Getting Paid in a Timely Manner

Matt slammed the phone down on the receiver, but not before he roared, "How do you expect me to run my business when you won't pay me for what I've done?" 

It had been 2 weeks since he had been able to talk with the adjuster, 3 months since the final invoices were submitted and 8 months since the flood. The adjuster would not talk with him, the owner was avoiding him and no one seemed to care that they owed him $24,000. 

His secretary poked her head in the door and apologized, "Charles is on line 2 wondering when you're going to pay him for the Martin job and Marla is on line 4 asking if we were going to make payroll this week?"

Getting paid in a timely manner from an adjuster is determined by a multitude of factors, but the greatest single action you can take is to create a positive relationship with every adjuster. I know we can't be BBF (best friends forever) with every adjuster, but there are a few simple steps we can take as estimators/contractors to create a positive professional relationship.

Write you estimates using simple, concise and consistent language. Start from the ceiling and work down or from the floor and work up; always keeping a chronological narrative to paint a picture for the adjuster of what happened. The best way to hide unearned line items is to mix-up the order of your presentation. Adjusters know this and are critical of any estimate that doesn't have a natural pattern.

Add an opening statement detailing the date of the loss, who called you out, when you arrived, etcAs I review claims that end up in court, most never have enough detail to tell me what happened. Add additional details with notes. Rather than just listing 15 fan days, expand a note to say, 5 fans x 3 days each. The more detail you give, the easier it is for the adjuster to understand what you are asking for.

Red dots show the height the water wicked up the drywall.
Willingly supply photos, drying logs, and documentation, etcThe adjuster was not there to see the drywall hanging from the ceiling or slosh through 6 inches of water. I always moisture check the room and mark the water levels with red dots, (yellow dots for paneling and darker painted walls), then I take my photos. This way the adjuster has a vivid image in their mind of what really happened. 

It also helps with audits from their supervisors, who may review the claim months after the loss is cleaned up, repaired and paid.

Keep your line items in the smallest units possible. Listing 7 fans each, placed in 10 different rooms, for 4 days each, seems much more reasonable than 280 fan days in your opening line item. Many busy adjusters scan the line item costs on the right side of the page and only read the descriptions of the ones that are unusually large. 

Keeping the line items small doesn't hide costs, because the detailed information is still available, but several smaller items makes your estimate look more defendable than a few very large items. It also gives the adjuster the information they need to justify the money they send you.

Break down the estimate into auditable unit costs. Adjusters love per/sf, per/sy and per/fixture because they can always go back and count the fixtures or re-measure the space. 

Avoid minimum charges, lump sum pricing and labor hours. This includes sub-contractor estimates. 

Most adjusters will happily pay the per/unit costs derived in a respectable estimating program rather than trusting the lump sum invoice of a sub-contractor, even if the total costs are more. The reason, they can defend them better in an audit.

Answer questions before they occur.  If there is a chance someone will ask a question, give them the answer right up front. Every question knocks your credibility down a notch. Keep your integrity intact by being upfront and honest. 

Willingly accept your mistakes and eagerly work for a solution, ESPECIALLY if it costs you money. Fixing mistakes quickly and quietly as soon as you discover them are a mark of a professional. Don't try to hide a blunder or blame someone else once it has become public knowledge. 

We are the estimator or the contractor. We are ultimately responsible for everything that everyone does on every job we have. Step up to the plate and be just as willing to accept the responsibility for a mistake as the credit for a win.

Finally, recognize that adjusters are people just trying their best, to do their job, support their family and in some cases, not get fired. 
  • Help make their life easier by writing good estimates.
  • Be considerate of their time and ask, "Is this a good time to talk?" 
  • Take an interest in their interests and family as appropriate.  
They may have a family member fighting demons in their personal life or life threatening illnesses devouring a loved one. We seldom know. We must give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they are doing the best they can. Help them shine for their boss. 

We like those who make us feel good about ourselves.

Adjusters do too.

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