Ya’ll will really enjoy this story by Kim Nelson she shares with our members at ClaimSmentor and she has extended permission for me to share their story on this blog. Kim is entirely too shy about their backgrounds and the accomplishments they’ve made during the two years since obtaining their license. I often tease Kim that she is the Poster Child for everything I believed in when I founded ClaimSmentor. She has taken every class we’ve offered in the LIVE online classes, she has followed profile advice and created professional resumes, she has followed every lead we’ve posted in our ClaimSmentor Career Forum, been selected as part of the 2006 Mariposa claims mentoring project they did with our participants, and she and husband Nelson have attended I think just about every claims conference nationwide as well as fitting in many adjusting firm seminars and as many training classes as time and finances allowed. If that isn’t enough, Kim has also completed the AIC Associates in Claims program to add to her already impressive list of designations she earned during her agency career. Kim was also our first member of ClaimSmentor and remains very devoted to helping us by providing mentoring tips to other new adjusters in our forum.
Now…….sit back and enjoy their “Cat Tales” about their experience getting started in independent claim careers and their first storm. Thanks again to Kim and Nelson for allowing others to learn from their stories. Congratulations on setting such a great example for ClaimSmentor members to follow. You have found work when many others have yet to do so due to your positive attitude, persistence, and “can do” attitudes. They say “luck is where preparation meets opportunity” and you give that quote true meaning with your real life dedication to becoming the most professional adjusters you can be. It has truly been my pleasure working with you and mentoring you and brings me great pleasure to read of your successful entry into this field. Best to ya’ll…Deb
Here is also a link to the “Starting a Storm” article by Mariposa adjusters the Lenz’s we previously posted in this blog here which Kim mentions in her story below.
Things are pretty quiet around here so I thought I would share the tale of our first cat deployment.
First, some background first for those of you who don’t know us. We became licensed in 2005. We signed up for a vendor 5-day training class at the end of Oct. ’05 and it just worked out that Hurricane Wilma hit 3 days before the class. The vendor offered us 100 Hurricane Wilma claims the day the class ended but even though I had been an insurance agent for 20 years and Nelson had owned a construction company for 16 years, we just didn’t feel ready to jump into adjusting after a 5-day class. Instead we took another 7-day property adjusting class the next month and then worked as unpaid assistants to some great mentors who were willing to share their experience, knowledge and their spare RV with us.
During Winter and Spring 2006 we attended vendor conferences and took virtually every carrier cert and training class we could afford.
By late Spring of 2006 we were better trained, certified with several carriers, had worked Hurricane Wilma claims for 30 days and felt like we could do a creditable job of cat claims adjusting without going crazy at the same time. I have always seemed to have a problem with timing and this was no exception. Now that we were ready to go, there was nowhere to go. This was the beginning of the “great void” as far as cats go and it was hard to find (actually, impossible) a vendor interested in our services. I am, if anything, persistent so I started a campaign to find us work. I’m sure some of you have found out that when things are slow, it’s tough to get work even if you are willing to do it for free! In April of 2006 we were lucky to be accepted into Mariposa’s (great company!) mentoring program. They matched us up with one of their top daily claims adjusters and for about 6 weeks we learned how different daily claims are from the cat claims we had worked with our friends during Wilma. This was also an unpaid position but we were very happy to have it.
Once we had completed this daily claims apprenticeship, I started marketing our services as daily claims adjusters. During the past 18 months we have been able to work about 70 daily claims. The great thing about daily claims is the variety. We have worked fire, mold, burglary, water, tornado, spilled bleach, sewer back up, liability, wind, hail, you name it! We worked with both personal lines and commercial lines policies. Because 70 claims in 18 months isn’t exactly a lucrative income we have also done some underwriting inspections and My Safe Florida Home inspections.
So, it’s August of 2007 and although we now feel comfortable saying “claims adjuster” when someone asks what kind of work we do, we still haven’t worked our first cat and, cat work, not daily, is our goal. We would like to be able to spend time in Iowa as well as Florida and daily claims tie you down even if you aren’t real busy. We were aware there was a lot of storm damage in several areas of the Midwest in August but, of course, the vendors were calling their long time adjusters for this work, not us. We found ourselves in the unusual situation of having no open daily claims and a lull in the My Safe Florida Home inspection work. I sent e-mails to the managers of all the vendors we had dealt with for training, carrier certs, conferences and all those for whom we had completed the necessary items to be put on their rosters. I recounted our experience and certifications and told them we were available.
Lo and behold, on 8/21/2007 we got a call. The vendor rep asked if we were still available. She said “I don’t know if we will send you to MN, IL or NC but start packing and we’ll call you back.” Of course, we have had close calls before and we knew that packing would jinx this so we just proceeded as normal. At 8:00 PM on Thursday, 8/23/2007, they called us back and asked if we could be in IL by Saturday, 8/25/2007. She told us to just start driving towards IL and someone would call us and tell us exactly where we would be working and where the storm office would be.
We started out for IL early Friday morning and mid-morning we got a call from our new storm manager. He introduced himself, told us the town we would be working in and said that, since we were new, they would give us 20 claims to start with. He explained we would be given additional claims as we completed the 20. We said “great!” He said the claims were being sent to us via XactCentral as we spoke and we could accept them and start calling them. He said there would be a storm office where we could go for help if we needed it and he would call us back with the info on that.
We were really thrilled about the storm location. This town is 50 miles from our house in Iowa! We had 2 choices; with only 20 claims to handle, we could drive back and forth every day or we could fire up our old motor home and stay in the town where the claims are. We decided to go the motor home route so we called and made a reservation at an RV park in that town for $24 per night.
Our storm manager called us back Friday afternoon and he said “We only wanted to start you out with 20 claims but you guys are going to be the first ones there so we need to send you 15 more.” We said “ok.” He also said it appeared that this was going to be a “remote managed” storm and that there wouldn’t be a storm office. We said “ok.”
Our storm manager called us back Friday evening and said “We just found out that you guys are the only adjusters being sent to this cat site that have commercial certification for this carrier so we have to send you 15 commercial claims. We said “Gulp…ok” We weren’t scared of the commercial claims, per say, because this was the carrier I had been an agent for and I am familiar with their policies but we had NEVER used XactCentral and we knew from the certification class for this carrier that there was a little more set up for commercial claims in Xactimate and XactCentral. XactCentral was our main worry and the words of the carrier’s rep at the certification class hung over us like a cloud: “A storm is not the place to learn a new program.” The problem was, we had attended an advanced Xactimate class and they barely touch on XactCentral. It seems like “trial by fire” is the only way you can learn it.
So, here we are, around Tennessee with another 10 hours of driving ahead of us. We have gone from 20 claims to about 50, we have gone from a storm office to “remote managed” and we have 15 commercial claims. OK…. this is what we have been training for. We can do this. We pulled into a Flying J truck stop and bought their “all day wireless” for $5 (our Verizon card was working too slowly for this) and downloaded our claims and I started calling them.
This was where I made the biggest mistake of this storm. I can honestly say that I have read everything in the archives of CADO about storm deployment. I have also read everything on ClaimSmentor about this subject and I have taken Deb’s excellent Fundamentals class and other classes about working cats. You’d think I would know how to do this but, prior to this point, the most open claims we had at one time was 8!
I started talking to all those people who had big holes in their roofs, other serious damage, no power etc. and I just started scheduling them as close as I thought we could inspect. We thought, “With 2 of us we should be able to do several inspections and closings in the same day…WRONG!” The most important thing that we didn’t take into account was that we had our inexperience with XactCentral still to overcome.
Anyway, we stopped for a few hours to sleep Friday night and got up Saturday morning and sped towards our home in Iowa to pick up our RV and head towards IL. All the while I was phoning insureds and digging our hole a little deeper with my scheduling.
We arrived in Iowa around 2:00 PM on Saturday. We had set an appointment for 6:00 PM that evening with the insured with the most serious damage. We decided we would go scope that loss and then just drive back to Iowa Saturday night. Our first appointment on Sunday was 1:00 PM so we would have time to take the motor home to IL and get it set up in the morning. We did that inspection at 6:00 and then headed back to Iowa. A friend of ours had used our motor home and it was still at his house so we stopped there to pick it up. Nelson started it up, put it in gear and it wouldn’t move! It was parked in the grass so we thought, “It’s stuck.” After a few minutes we realized the motor home wasn’t stuck…the brakes were! OK, we have 3 appointments Sunday afternoon, 5 appointments on Monday and 5 appointments on Tuesday. When can we work on the motor home? We can’t! Ok, can we just drive back and forth each day (2 hours round trip) with appointments starting at 8:00 AM and ending at 6:00 PM? No, we really don’t think we want to do that…Ok; we’ll get a hotel over there. Remember I told you about my timing? Well, I started calling hotels in this town and quickly found out that besides all the roofers, contractors and adjusters who were heading to the area (and, because they weren’t planning on staying in their motor homes, had made a reservation!), it was the week of the annual Stearman Fly In where people fly their antique Stearman planes into this town and guess what? They don’t sleep in them! The only room we could find at this late date was the Holiday Inn Express for $71 per night!
Thanking God for credit cards, we moved into the Holiday Inn Express on Sunday afternoon just in time to make it to our first Sunday inspection. We did our 3 Sunday inspections and when we got back to the hotel about 8:00PM we now had 4 inspected claims and no estimates done. Remember we have 5 inspections scheduled Monday and 5 on Tuesday as well. Another item to mention is that we had “triaged” our claims so the 4 estimates we now had to do were likely the most serious damage of all of our claims. And also remember, once we get these estimates done, we don’t know how to submit them because we have never used XactCentral. This carrier wants you to contact within 24 hours, inspect within 1 week and close the claim within 2 days of the inspection. We were good on the contact, still ok on the inspections but already behind the 8 ball on the closings.
From there on out for the next two weeks it is still pretty much a blur. We didn’t get much sleep the first two weeks. We are very lucky in that we have several great mentors. None of them were working while we were at the storm and they were sending us advice and words of encouragement. It was embarrassing to tell our good friends and mentors Dan & Leslie Lenz, authors of that great “How to Start a Storm” essay, (posted on ClaimSmentor!) that we had overscoped. We did do pretty well on the “Call the insureds” part of their advice.
The vendor we were working with had an extremely good support system. The storm manager handled our homeowner’s reviews and took questions about those policies. Another guy did our commercial reviews and answered questions on them. Another guy was the Xactimate/XactCentral expert and he saved our butts on getting us up to speed with that. None of the horror stories we had heard came true with this storm. All three of those support people were working our storm and at least 3 other storms simultaneously and they were extremely busy. Most of the time they actually answered their phones and if they didn’t, they really did call right back. They were very patient and nice. Since the same reviewers were doing all our reviews, we never got mixed signals or had to change anything more than once. Best of all, once we got the hang of the XactCentral thing, we hardly had to make any revisions at all. They really seemed to like our work.
We started out behind on the closings and didn’t ever get to where we were getting them closed within 2 days of inspection but they were very understanding about that as well. They said that we had gotten most of the high severity claims because we were the first on site and they were surprised and pleased that we didn’t have any problems with the commercial claims because, apparently they often get a lot of revisions on commercial. This was a wind storm and most of the damage was caused by wind and falling trees. We only had 1 or 2 claims over $20,000, 4 or 5 that were between $10,000-$20,000 and the rest were under $10,000.
After the first 2 days of inspections we had to drastically change our game plan. Every claim we had worked prior to this storm we had worked together and had a pretty good system. We would both scope the loss. If it was a large loss I would scope my part and Nelson would scope his. If it was a small loss we would walk around together and Nelson would dictate the scope to me. When we got back to our office, Nelson would do the Sketch diagrams (I can only do easy ones!) and he would label the photos while I wrote the estimates and the reports. I spent more desk time on the claims than he did because I enjoy that part the most. Before we sent them in, Nelson would check my work. Sometimes my construction terminology needs a little “tweak!” After the first few days of the storm (because of the way I had scheduled!) we could see that I wasn’t going to have time to go along on the inspections and still get all the other things done I needed to do. By the end of the first week we had about 28 of our claims inspected and about 5-6 sent in! I started staying in at the hotel and working on the estimates all day and we started getting caught up a little. The only problem with that was it is harder to work off someone else’s scope when you didn’t see the damage, even with the photos. We had lots of things to go over when he got back each night.
We have discussed all this great at length and have some new plans for our next storm. By leaving every other day or so without appointments we should be able to handle cat claims the way we do dailies and be more efficient. I really missed participating in the inspections. If that doesn’t work we will go to plan B, C, or D…whatever it takes. The main lesson we learned is the well worn adage “Don’t scope more than you can write”
It took us less than 3 weeks to complete and submit all of our claims except for a couple that were waiting on contractor’s estimates for specialty items. All in all it was a great experience. We learned so much! XactCentral isn’t difficult to use at all and now I’m an old hand at it. Nelson was glad when the inspections were done because there were a lot of 2 story roofs and he had to lug that big ladder around. I had it easy sitting in the hotel room pounding away!
The vendor has paid us exactly as agreed and on time and has assured us they will be calling us again.
I hope all of you who have not yet been deployed have as good a first experience as we did.
Nelson P Stegall ACA, NFIP Certified Kim D Stegall AAI, ACA, AICIndependent Adjusters