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February 2015: Contents Pros Go Looking For Trouble

a man and a woman holding up blueprints looking up at the ceiling

You may have heard that many years ago, Japanese businessmen initiated a policy of “Kaizen,” constant and never ending improvement. Today, contents professionals use that same concept as a cornerstone for their program of personal and company-wide excellence. That is why many of them often seek the opinions of their customers including homeowners, business owners, adjusters, agents, building managers and many others.

Testimonials, enthusiastic letters of recommendation and personal compliments are of course, highly prized by the contents teams, but equally important are indications of disappointment, distress or outright displeasure offered by some clients.

Contents pros realize that they represent not only their own company, but the insurance carrier that invited them on the job, so many of them are seeking “constant and never ending improvement” by asking the customers themselves how they might improve their interaction and services (they don’t wait for complaints, they solicit them)!

Sometimes this is done through friendly interpersonal communication by the project manager, sometimes it is facilitated by a survey or questionnaire, but always there is a continual flow of information from which the team can fashion even better assistance.

the man and woman surveying the job site

The contents pros have discovered that simply by asking for a customer’s opinion, they forge a bond that makes the customer feel valued, which in turn gives them a sense of control in an otherwise chaotic situation.

And by finding out what a customer doesn’t like, early on, they are given a chance to correct a problem before it escalates. It can be done with nothing more than a “How are we doing, Mrs. Smith?” A simple, informal query can alleviate the client’s silent (and building) frustration.

Daily or weekly questionnaires can give the contents teams a chance to improve – without any recrimination. So no one is told they are doing a bad job, but can be shown areas where the customer feels they could do even better – a chance for improvement.

This sort of excellence often manifests as online praise for the carrier, letters of praise to the agent’s and adjuster’s bosses and a job that saves money by not getting bogged down in arguments, threats and late night phone calls from the insured.

By “looking for trouble,” the contents team helps make sure customer satisfaction is at an all-time high – thus getting more policy renewals for the agent, and reducing the headaches that often arise for the adjuster on even the most average of jobs.

The contents pros have proved again and again that the best way to keep a customer happy is to see to it that they feel they have a voice and can get a quick and effective response.

They create a balance between doing the job quickly, within budget and to the highest standards – and helping the adjuster get the case off his (her) desk so he can move on to the next job.

a line of men saluting

There is a new organization, still in its infancy, called, “Disaster Brigade, U.S.A.” It is based in Jefferson City, Missouri and invites both able bodied and disabled veterans, “…who want to learn how to become self-employed through Disaster Restoration and Preparedness services,” to join.

One news release asks, “Veterans are experienced in rapid mobilization. Who better to mobilize than our Vets?” And adds, “We have designed Disaster Brigade to couple veterans with established disaster restoration operators, and offer an advanced training platform that exceeds any other of its type. This will ensure that they get the right training to meet their personal goals and help DISASTER BRIGADE, U.S.A. build Leadership Teams in every state in America.”

Quite a number of restoration companies have been hiring Vets as part of their front line force, and more than one of them has shown us that they would make great contents specialists. One recently shared with us that in Afghanistan, he used “Silly String,” (the party favor that is plastic string propelled as a stream of liquid from an aerosol can) to help find trip wires in dimly lit dwellings before entering and feminine hygiene products to save wounded soldier’s lives – we think he will fit right in!

Contents Pros Have "Juice!"

There once was a time when insurance adjusters used to ask restoration companies just two questions, “How fast can you do the job?” and “How inexpensively can you do the job?” Later they added a third question, “Can you do the job?” That one came into being because lots of untrained, inexperienced companies entered the restoration arena with little more than good intentions.

Real contents pros got the training, and earned every bit of their experience, but a sure way to recognize them today is that they are still looking for new and innovative products, techniques and methods that will enable them to do an even better job.

For example, when the thyme-based cleaner/disinfectants came on the market, the contents pros were amongst the first to add them to their arsenal – after all, who wouldn't want a food-grade disinfectant that was harmless to humans!

Now there is another “new kid on the block.” A disinfectant that can be used on soft surfaces, like bedding, textiles, rugs and more (not just hard surfaces) and even better, they have an insecticide built into the cleaning solution that also kills bed bugs, fleas, ticks, etc.* It even has, “…a fluorescent tracer to document treated surfaces.”

These mixtures save time, money and in the right hands, they can do a job of which even the most exacting adjuster would be proud. And now there is even a solution that forms a clear encapsulating barrier to prevent the release of particulates after restoration and stops smoke odors from being released back into the air.

That is why the contents pros are so highly valued – they know what to do, how do it and the best way to proceed.

a man and woman with paper hats reviewing a document

There is a major difference between trained and experienced contents professionals and those who merely claim to be. You may recall some of the articles we published in years gone by:

  • Two untrained workers were seen tossing small statuary from one to the other in a parking lot, so they could more quickly get them boxed – only to drop two of them (the resultant damage was over $30,000). Real contents pros wrap and package each piece individually before they pack them in protective boxes (they don’t toss them).

  • Or the one in which untrained people boxed up several bottles of wine in a single container – thus scuffing and scraping the labels. As it happened, the damaged labels reduced the value of the wine in them by half (no kidding)! Trained professionals protect the wine, the bottles, the labels, even the ambient temperature and exposure to sunlight – amateurs don’t.

  • Or perhaps you remember the article in which a well-meaning beginner placed a set of smoke-damaged pearls in an ultrasonics basket only to discover that the high tech machinery stripped off the nacre (shiny outside of the pearls) and diminished their value in a matter of seconds. Real contents pros have long known that some items cannot be placed in an ultrasonics machine – no matter how much of a hurry they are in.

  • And more than one adjuster has been aghast when he (she) saw a contents worker “washing” the insides of a computer or big screen TV, after a fire – only to discover that the special spray cabinets and deionized water that was used, actually saved the delicate electronics and they were returned to pre-loss condition.

  • One of our favorites was the one where an adjuster watched as a contents team member seemed to be wasting time by picking up flakes of paint off the floor beneath a badly damaged work of art that had been so heated that the painting had actually cracked and bubbled – only to find out that even those paint chips could be used by an art conservatory to restore the portrait (worth well into the five figure range).

Which is why when insurance adjusters and agents find a competent contents restoration company, they hold on with both hands – no other part of any restoration job can save money for the carrier the way trained contents pros can!

jars with colorful paint brushes sticking out

It seems there was a painting by Ettore DeGrazia, valued by the owner at around $16,000. It was stolen and all that remained was a photograph to show it had once been in the possession of the family that owned it.

A contents specialty company went online to find out what they could about the painting, only to discover that it was in fact a canvas transfer copy and not an original painting. Once that was verified by the gallery that represented DeGrazia’s estate, the final payment by the insurance company was determined to be $250 – not $16,000.

Not every contents company has such specialists, but they know who they are (you can find them in their “million dollar data base.”)