An article by David Herring of XactLoss Services—What Makes a Great Public Adjuster?—appears in the April issue of GAPIA Times (published by the Georgia Association of Public Insurance Adjusters). GAPIA President Judith Vickers and the rest of the GAPIA Board have been doing an excellent job with their Association and the keynote article is worthy of reflection by all public adjusters. If you are a public adjuster, don’t you want to be one of the best?
Here are the six primary points Herring makes for determining the characteristics of the best public adjusters:
1. An Almost Unbreakable Drive To The Insured Made Whole.
Herring harshly observed that "many Public Adjusters are rather callous. To many the drive for every dollar for the insured surrounds the marketing word "maximize," and nothing but vapor remains behind this mask." When I spoke to him about his article, he said that it is ‘sad to know that so many public adjusters simply do not have what it takes to be great.’
I do not know if I completely agree with him—I think many people are capable of doing extraordinary things. However, he correctly notes that in this day and age, anybody can advertise almost anything about their service with no long term track record of success or even knowledge of what success means within the framework of a claim. Just because you "think" or "say" you are a great public adjuster does not make it so. Even having people provide testimonials does not make it so because everybody seems to do this when advertising on the internet.
2. An Appreciation of Diversity.
Herring initially confused me on this topic. He stated that "the great Public Adjuster simply yields to the diversity of needs and character to communicate in a way that works best for the insured. This means answering more calls, text, e-mails, and making more meetings. It is annoying at times, but the greatest celebrate the various needs and address it as a matter of duty."
Two aspects of the best public adjusters are tireless work ethic and creative methods to explain theories of loss which are understandable and compelling. Compelling advocacy of coverage and loss separates many public adjusters. It takes thorough knowledge of insurance policies and how to properly repair and replace damaged property along with an ability to convincingly explain it to everybody associated with the insurance company.
3. Respectful of All in the Claim Process.
Herring claims that "[a]nyone can be a blow hard. Insults rarely get an insurance Carrier to change a stance against the insured when this strategy is used." I agree.
And, I have to remind myself of this on a fairly constant basis because I find it difficult to treat "jerks" as anything other than that. The natural "fighter" in me wants to make life miserable for that type of person and many clients want me to make life miserable for them. God knows I am trying to be more "mindful" when combatting those that I think have done my client wrong. My personal experience has taught me my biggest and quickest wins have come with professional and refrained passion rather than a war of words. But this is a personal constant struggle.
4. A Fair Contract.
Herring indicated that the contract should reflect a value added proposition that is economical and not just "a money grab." I have written on this topic in the past as noted in Do Public Adjusters Charge Too Much? Most people are afraid to tackle this topic, but I did and stated the following for reflection:
"Freedom is an important value in the American way of life. I believe in the free market. I have been in meetings where legislators pondering public adjuster fees have the same view and think people should be able to contract for whatever sums they want. Yet, isn’t there a problem with a profession that allows members to gouge customers? How much is too much? When do the fees charged prevent policyholders from being able to retain additional professionals? Do public adjusters that charge 50% really provide greater service? What about the concern of those in the insurance industry who ponder if higher fees reflect incentives to commit fraud?"
The truth is that most of "the best" public adjusters I observe charge ten percent or less. They seem to make a great living with lots of clients, fantastic reputations and the satisfaction of making more money through great results and repeat clients.
5. A Powerful Properly Investigated Scope.
Herring does a lot of work for public adjusters by making scopes of real property damage. He indicated that "we are often shocked by the lack of photo documentation and notes that show every aspect of the loss. The best are willing to spend the extra time and help to establish a provable narrative. The result makes the claim easy to understand in the scope documents."
I refer to this aspect of property insurance adjustment as providing a fully documented loss. I also find that the best public adjusters also tend to be the most creative when it comes to documenting the loss. They also tend to be very convincing of a theory of loss that is acceptable to the insurance adjuster’s manager, as noted in the point about diversity.
David Herring said that the best public adjusters "see every claim as a piece of their own makeup. The human side of these Adjusters is more important than anything else. They don’t glad- hand a client, they slide in behind their own view of the problems and show empathy as a friend impassioned to help." Helping another in need and understanding that virtually all losses have some emotional aspect is important.
A truth is that not everybody can be "the best." Indeed, Yogi Berra would correctly state that only half of all the public adjusters can even be in the top half. I bet just about 100% of all public adjusters with more than five years of full time experience in the insurance industry think they are in the top 50% of all public adjusters.
Mohammed Ali could back up claiming he was the best because he beat the best. He did it through years of long hard work and getting better when nobody was watching. He learned his trade through great mentors and coaches. His God given talents were honed to perfection through years of training, repetition, and experience which eventually lead him to a level of experienced creativity which carried him long after his physical gifts were in decline.
I applaud Herring for writing a list of characteristics of what makes "the best public adjusters." I would add "in-depth knowledge" as a key characteristic. I wrote about showing and proving this in Show Your Commitment and Knowledge By Obtaining Insurance Designations Specifically For Public Adjusters.
Still, this GAPIA article raises the important question for all public adjusters to honestly answer:
Are you being the best public adjuster you can?
Positive Thought For The Day:
"I know I get insane guilt if I go home at the end of the day and don’t feel I’ve done everything I can. If I know I could have done something better, I have this uneasy feeling."
– Andy Roddick