This past winter, in Northeastern Pennsylvania, and elsewhere, we experienced extreme freezing conditions and the related volume of Water Damage claims related to freezing pipes. As many of you may be aware, this elevated volume of claims often resulted in diminished customer service to your customers; those same customers that you have worked so hard to acquire and maintain. Now is an excellent time to look at what occurred and use these experiences to plan ahead so that things can be handled differently this winter season to help ensure that your customers' water damage needs are met.
First, let's look at some real life scenarios that occurred in our area. While I will refrain from using any names, some of you will recognize your customers:
The long term customer of a Tunkhannock Insurance Agent suffered a severe water damage claim due to freezing pipes to several levels of their home. The Insurance Company involved had a National Account with one of the national cleaning company franchises. Unable to respond effectively to this loss, and yet apparently not wanting to lose the income from this job, the franchise accepted the assignment and immediately sent out a manager to the customer's home to obtain the signed contract. After getting the customer's signature, the manager explained that the customer would be placed on a waiting list and it would be at least a week before the cleaning franchisee would be able to send anyone out to start mitigation of this large water damage claim.
Luckily for this customer, their insurance agent believed in being actively involved with his customers. Seeing that the customer had a claim, the agent followed up with the customer and after a little over a week later reached the customer to check on the process of the claim. It was at that time that the agent became aware that no one had yet been sent out to take care of his customers' emergency needs! Having a local relationship with Disaster Blaster, the agent contacted us with his problem and we dispatched an emergency crew that day to finally begin the drying process. Unfortunately during this unreasonable delay, mold had already started to grow, but we were able to remediate this mold contamination, working with both the customer and their Insurance Company to address this additional work.
By way of another example, another homeowner suffered a furnace puff back in January 2014, in the midst of all the volume of freezing pipe claims in the area. The Insurance Company assigned the claim to a National Cleaning Franchise Company to handle the associated clean up. Unfortunately for this customer, the franchisee was overwhelmed with water damage claims from the polar vortex that occurred. Despite the fact that the franchisee was too busy to properly handle this claim, they accepted the job assignment and sent crews that were ill equipped to handle the work involved. As a result, as of June 2014, the customer's home still had a strong smoke odor throughout. A local agent became involved and contacted Disaster Blaster to review the matter with the customer and work with the Insurance Company to resolve the problem. After working directly with the Insurance Company, we were able to obtain approval for the necessary work required to properly remove or seal in the smoke damage and associated odor to her home.
In the interest of brevity, I have limited the above to just two examples. There were many other situations that occurred that could have been either avoided or alleviated.
To better meet the claims needs of your customers and prevent these types of occurrences, we suggest the following:
1. As the Insurance Agent that wrote the business, take a proactive approach to your customers' claim needs. Your customer will never need you more than when they are experiencing the trauma associated to a homeowners or business property claim. The examples above make it clear that local insurance agents cannot rely on the National Account relationships established by Insurance Companies to adequately and properly handle the claim needs of their customers. After all, these National Companies have no relationship with you or your customers. Recommend local vendors to your customers whenever possible. Follow up with your customers when they have a claim to make sure that they are being properly served. If nothing else, make sure your customers know you care.
2. Develop strong relationships with local service companies to handle the needs of your customers. Maintain and strengthen these relationships by referring jobs to them as often as possible. The more often you use the vendor the more important you and your business will become. Its common business sense, and provides more of your customers the opportunity for high quality service.
3. Maintain vendor relationships with your customer's claims needs in mind. Don't be persuaded to believe that one vendor will be capable of servicing all your customer needs. We suggest that you establish a separate company to handle your Water Damage and other Emergency vendor needs while maintaining another relationship with a local cleaning company to handle those needs that are not emergency in nature. This will help to ensure that in those times of high claim volumes, your customer's emergency drying, mitigation and indoor environmental needs are properly handled while your selected cleaning company vendor is still available for your customers' smoke and other general cleaning needs. This will also help to ensure a better level of job quality for your customer. The specialized skill level of a properly trained and certified / licensed mitigation technician is much greater than that of a cleaning technician. Having a relationship with an indoor environmental mitigation company ensures that these specialized claims receive the higher level of technical expertise necessary. Using a cleaning company, and the associated lower skill level and cost of their crews, for your simpler cleaning claims ensures that your customers and the insurance company are not paying more than they have to.
4. When building relationships with local Mitigation Companies, look for a company that is able to handle unforeseen complications such as Asbestos should they arise during mitigation. This avoids lengthy delays during the drying process, particularly during times of high claim volume, where a company not properly licensed in Asbestos Abatement will move on to other claims, effectively placing this 'problem claim' on the backburner. Prior to drying any areas that may contain Asbestos, unlicensed companies will need to find another company able to legally perform this work, creating further delays as any work is now also dependent on a 3rd party's schedule. Better customer service and efficiencies are achieved by selecting a vendor who are state licensed to perform these services in house.
Insurance Companies would do well to also follow some of these recommendations. The polar vortex claim volume that occurred the beginning of this year proved that the National Account relationships these companies have established over the last few years fall well short of properly servicing their claim needs, especially during times when they need this service the most; during heavy volume. As well, it would appear that these National vendors and their franchisees are not willing to communicate back to insurance companies when service levels are not up to standards. Rather, perhaps out of fear of losing a large National Account, or greed, the National Franchise Operations continue to accept job assignments despite the lack of capacity to service them properly, as we have seen just recently.
And who pays the price for this indifference? Your Customers. Don't they deserve better?
Disaster Blaster is committed to properly servicing you and your customers. Should one of your customers suffer a Water Damage or other emergency claim, please don't hesitate to Contact Our Offices!
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