“We add items to the estimate that we know are going to get kicked out to give the adjuster something to do.”
Do you do this? It’s something I have heard a lot over the years. It seems like a good strategy. They are called adjusters right? It’s in their job title. But do you know what works even better than stuffing an estimate? Invoicing for exactly what you did.
So many are having issues with pushback from adjusters. There are so many opinions on the best way to take care of that. They range from ignoring all adjusters to giving adjusters anything they ask for. What exactly is the correct way? Well this is a very nuanced answer depending on your relationship with the client and also referral source. But the best answer is still to be honest with what you did and why you did it. Justification and documentation will get you paid the easiest.
Who would you prefer to buy from?
Think of it this way. Would you prefer a used car dealer, that going in you know automatically you will need to haggle to knock him off his price? Even when you get the price down, are you ever really comfortable with the deal? The salesperson seemed pretty happy when you left the lot… How long until this thing breaks down? What is that noise?!?!?! Or would you rather deal with someone that is straight up with you. A dealership that says: ”This is the price of the car. We have thoroughly checked the car and here is what we fixed. As a matter of fact, here is the documentation for any issues the car had and what was done to repair it.” They also give you a detailed invoice. There are no erroneous fees. Which transaction would make you feel more confident? It is no different with both the adjuster and your actual client, the homeowner. Do the job you are supposed to do and bill for that job. Stand firm on your scope of work and the proof this is what you did and why. They will respect you for it. Also, the homeowner will appreciate the work you did when you educate them on how you are taking care of them.
How Can You Resolve The Issue?
Our industry has enough of a reputation already. Don’t add to it! Be honest, fair, customer friendly while also being profitable. Be open and confident knowing that your scope of work is rock solid. When you are standing on firm ground at the beginning of your negotiations, there will need to be a very good reason to give up any ground.
Back to the car dealership example. When you purchase a car, you understand that the dealership is entitled to a share of profits. If the dealership isn’t profitable, there would be no coffee bar, fancy snacks or nice chairs to sit in…. because there would be no dealership. Likewise, you should not be ashamed of making a profit. Now if that dealership was scamming others or being dishonest in order to be profitable, that would be a problem. The same principle can be used for restoration contractors. If we are knowingly being dishonest on our estimates, how can we expect others to trust us?
So what do we do? When we are honest, it seems our estimates not only will be lower to begin with, but then they will still be up for a frustrating review in which someone is trying to lower it even more! Make it your priority to justify your scope of work with photos. Not just photos, but photos that tell the story of the claim. Also, justify any items that may throw up a red flag with a note to the adjuster. And make sure you are doing onsite monitoring each day, if at all possible. The more we justify and document a claim, the easier it is to get paid on a claim.
In the end, adding fluff to your estimates is a direct reflection not only on the company but also in the individuals in the company. As an estimator, your name is on the front of the invoice along with the company header. Have pride in your work and be prepared to justify what you have done. Preparation means have a plan. Execute it from the first phone call, to the first boot that steps on site right down to you getting paid.
Written by: Nick Sharp
Nick Sharp has worked with Jeremy Reets for over a decade now. He started in carpet cleaning and mitigation before moving to the construction side as a project manager. He then was the senior estimator for Champion Construction for over 8 years. Since its inception in 2015, Nick has been an instructor of our Restoration Estimating & Negotiating course. His most recent venture is as a restoration estimate consultant. Nick is an Xactware Certified Trainer and is also has his Level 3 Certifications in Xact 28 and X1. He’s a bad boy on that sketch but better at finding lost money!