For those who work in the insurance claims profession, writing an estimate in Xactimate is a constant learning process. As with any tool, Xactimate has its strengths and weaknesses. Often the issues with the platform are related to communicating the story of the loss to the various parties involved in an insurance claim. We will discuss five common Xactimate issues as well as the corresponding responses and resources that will help you transform them into opportunities to improve your process.
Common Xactimate Estimating Issue One
Writing an estimate that accurately reflects the conditions of the structure and how you plan to restore it to pre-loss conditions is only part of the battle. When working with insurance companies, especially if you do “program work” through third party administrators (TPAs), you have to also learn the requirements of the carriers. Issue number one is poor carrier and program basic level compliance. If you, or your team, is consistently getting rejected for the same basic things, you must STOP blaming “the other side” and START to pull your head out of the dark places of the status quo. Learning from rejection is key to your success with insurance claims estimating.
Response: Develop a better mindset, starting with training and consistent processes for estimating compliance.
Resource: The Three R’s of Mastering Xactimate discusses the mindset of learning from rejection, repetition, and relationships as you develop your estimating skills.
Common Xactimate Estimating Issue Two
Even if you are independent and don’t do any program work, you will want to learn the estimating compliance requirements of the carriers that you want to work with so that you can develop a working relationship with them. There are requirements and then there are nuances. Contractors who have poor execution of initial estimate components, such as opening statements, structure and flow of an estimate, and labeled photographs lead to breakdown in communication of the story of the loss. This is basic stuff for restoration contractors, yet it is often someone else’s fault. If an adjuster doesn’t understand the story you are telling, learn to be a better storyteller. The blame game is NOT The DYOJO Way. Have your tantrum and get it together. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
Response: Develop better habits, starting with attention to details. Learn to become a better claims storyteller.
Resource: The Format for Fire Damage Restoration Estimates discusses how to approach and structure your estimate for these complex projects.
Common Xactimate Estimating Issue Three
Xactimate line items have a basic description and then a detailed breakout, it is clear that many who use the program don’t read either. A lack of clarity regarding proper use of line items relevant to the claim is a common source of back and forth between the parties involved in an insurance claim. You can also use this as a good negotiating tool, whenever there is a rejection, ask the reviewer, “Which line items are not in compliance or have not been thoroughly explained?” As Chris Stanley shared on Episode 38 of The DYOJO Podcast, people in a position of leadership should develop structure and cheat sheets for their teams. Chris reminds contractors that everyone has a boss and a box, if you can help the adjuster work within their box you may find mutually beneficial ground. Do as much as you can within the box and then work with the parties involved in the claim to determine an agreed course of action for those items that don’t fit neatly in the box.
Response: Skills development through research, peer to peer counseling, and consistent training will help adapt systems so that everyone is learning from prior rejections.
Resource: Habits of Xactimate Estimating Success discusses those items that will help you to operate at your best and stand above your competition.
Common Xactimate Estimating Issue Four
Each time you get rejected, it should be a learning experience and to the best of your abilities ensure that you don’t get rejected for that same item again. Unless, like myself, you like to push buttons. Assuming you have learned from issues one through three so that you have a consistent estimating structure, you understand the rules of compliance (even if you don’t always follow them) and you know your line items, the next issue is documentation. Poor illustrative support for proposed scope of work will sink your otherwise functioning ship. This ties into the series we did for The Intentional Restorer titled Garbage In, Garbage Out, which reminds managers that we cannot expect our teams to hold a standard that we don’t follow. Telling the story of the loss is a company wide commitment and everyone must learn to master their roles and responsibilities.
Response: As you develop your story telling abilities, make sure your stories are packed with good pictures, supporting documentation, and thorough communication.
Resource: The DocuSketchers shares interviews with three insurance claim professionals who use this resource to assist in their documentation and estimating process.
Common Xactimate Estimating Issue Five
If you are frustrated with the claims review process, you are not alone. If you don’t like someone looking over your shoulder and you take it personally when you get rejected, you should not be doing program (aka preferred vendor) work as a contractor. Yet, even if you are independent, you still have to tell your story well and be prepared to defend your narrative. The claims process requires you to clearly communicate, using the tools of the trade, and defending your proposed scope of work. As Ken Larsesn says, you should speak for the structure, and master Andy McCabe’s approach, “Thickest file wins.” In contrast, if you are making up scope you are in dangerous territory and it will bite you in the end. If you are not supporting your claim narrative, your plan will get picked apart. Capture the details, be accurate and thorough in your presentation, and learn to master the skill of claims negotiation.
Response: Gather data that will inform decisions so that progress (one of the Four Pillars of Success for Intentional Restorers) can be made. Invest in soft skills development for your team in the same (or greater) measure as you do for technical skills (which also should be high).
Resource: Help! Claims Review Shredded My Estimate discusses the process of helping yourself and your team develop a better approach to claims rejections.
Luke Draeger (Seattle, WA) and Lisa Lavender (Reading, PA) are co-authors of Be Intentional: Culture - how the small things enhance or undermine your culture. In this clip from our "meet the authors" event, Luke and Lisa discuss their thoughts on whether role playing is an effective training tool in the workplace.
Is role playing effective for training in the workplace?
The typical training session at work is a mix of too boring to be engaging and/or too dissonant with the real world to be applicable. Intentional people in a position of leadership work to make their training time effective, engaging, and executable. Luke shares a story of how role playing was not an accurate gauge of whether someone was a good sales person. Role playing is awkward, but that does not mean that it isn't effective. Those owners and managers who set aside time for training and implement tools such as role playing, must work to ensure that these items meet the vision and objectives for the meetings.
What are your thoughts about role playing at work?
Role play at work is:
Be Intentional: Culture (2021) How the Small Things Enhance or Undermine Your Culture
Intro by: Michelle Blevins
Authors: Lisa Lavender Andrew McCabe Jeremy Watkin Dr. Leroy Nunery David Princeton Luke Draeger Jon Isaacson Christopher Stanley Elan Pasmanick
Editors: Jon Isaacson and Tiffany Acuff
Publisher: The DYOJO
Contact The DYOJO for bulk order discounts thedyojo.com/book2
Is soft skills training worth the time and investment - a discussion with Larry Wilberton & Eric Sprague
The DYOJO Podcast Episode 50 was recorded LIVE.
The DYOJO Podcast is sponsored by Be Intentional: Culture, written by a collaboration of talented authors from various service based industries. This book discusses real world examples of how the small things either enhance or undermine your efforts to develop a thriving workplace culture. Available in Kindle and paperback - thedyojo.com/book2
Property Restoration Podcast
Robert More - Mitigation Manager/Estimator in Boonsboro, MD
Mr. More is a newly awarded IICRC triple master for water, fire, and textile cleaning discusses the process of pursuing continuous improvement for yourself and the return on investment for your team members.
Soft Skills Training Podcast
Eric "The Tech Whisperer" Sprague and Larry "Pineapple Man" Wilberton co-hosts of Blue Collar Nation podcast and owners of MorningTechMeeting.com
The arc of return on investment for developing your team
Cleanfax Magazine conducted a benchmarking survey in 2020 which accumulates input from restoration contractors throughout the United States and Canada. Owners in this service based industry have stated that recruiting and retaining quality staff has been their number one challenge, over 80% consensus, dating back to 2018 (see infographic on their website):
Property Restoration Resources
Katie Smith, restoration owner in Raleigh, NC and president elect for the Restoration Industry Association (RIA)
Mrs. Smith discusses the upcoming IN PERSON RIA Convention 2021
The DYOJO Podcast - the weekly podcast for Intentional Restorers. Every Thursday at 9am PST on YouTube, Apple, and Spotify. Sharing The DYOJO WAY to shorten your DANG learning curve for professional development. www.thedyojo.com/listen
I share a story in my latest book about being hired to elevate training for an established office and then being berated for doing what I thought I was hired for; training. The experience of working in an environment with a supervisor that didn’t do much to help their team members with career development was a challenge but I want everyone reading to understand that it can be done. Career development in property restoration, as in most of the skilled trades, will require you to develop the right mindset and habits in customer service. We will address two key components of customer service in this article, communication and cleanliness.
Property restoration career development: Create your own opportunities
It may surprise some of those reading to learn that prior to 2008 we had specialists for almost everything. When I started in the industry in 2002, with the team in bright yellow, we had separate divisions. There was some crossover assisting teams when they needed help, but our primary functions and teams were distinct from each other. We had managers for each of our divisions, mold, water, fire/contents, repairs, and carpets.
When I arrived with the company listed in the opening paragraph, my role as production manager was expected to oversee all of the “divisions” similar to those listed above. As a side note, we offered trauma/crime scene cleanup but it was not a service we did a lot of. I saw bio-services as an opportunity to learn more about the process and market those services so that I could create a growth void that I could then fill. You may be starting over, like I was, or feel like you are stuck in career limbo, look for something that no one else wants to do and create your own opening. Whatever level you are at in your career, life is about opportunity, not convenience.
Property restoration career development: Training for customer service
While I was not aware of the title at the time, I had to develop a process for teaching my team soft skills in addition to the technical (hard) skills of property restoration. If you are a manager and/or owner, when you train your team members to develop their mindset and habits, you communicate opportunities for growth which will also push you to continue to grow. This quote attributed to Richard Branson, is a strong encouragement to any organization that wants to thrive with their people, "Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don't want to."
The chart below is the result of years of grinding out a process for addressing what I felt was important when training a diverse group of team members who had to master multiple service offerings. If you are committed to training, you have to budget time to focus on core principles and supplement scheduled training with on the job follow up by yourself and your team members. You don’t have accountability until you create clarity, develop consistency, and your team is committed to holding each other to the shared standards (culture). Accountability starts with the people in positions of leadership leading by example, without which it won’t exist.
Customer service, or better said, the customer experience, is essential to long term success in a service based industry like property restoration. You cannot expect that customer service is common sense or that your existing team will pass down everything that you hold dear.
Two key aspects of customer service that you have a direct impact on are:
Property restoration career development: Cleanliness is godliness
Cleanliness is godliness in property restoration. What is the first thing you should do when you meet a client, regardless of the time of day? If you are entering a home, you should be asking, “Would you like me to take my shoes off,” or slipping on protective booties that your company supplies you boxes and boxes of. Why is this important? Because it demonstrates to the homeowner that you respect their home, you respect them, and your number one priority is their experience during this process.
What is the alternative? You may walk in and the customer may be fine, but making this consideration known is key to setting yourself apart - even if no one else in your company does it. Obviously, if the whole house is flooded, you aren’t taking your shoes off and booties are useless. You can say, “Normally we would take our shoes off but it does not appear to be safe at this time.” One component of sales is ensuring you communicate how you and your company are different, not by putting your competitors down but by showing your client your unique values and habits.
Additional habits that demonstrate a standard of cleanliness:
I can remember early on, I was on a project where I had forgotten my vacuum cleaner (or someone had borrowed it and not returned it), and the day was wrapping up. Somehow the only tool I had was a hand broom and dust pan. My boss had made it clear that sweeping at the end of every day was important to him and would pay off with the customer. So, I swept my way out on my hands and knees. This wasn’t a detailed sweep as we were coming back to complete more demolition the next day, but that action won a lot of favor with the customer. Unfortunately, not every customer will vocalize their satisfaction, but your habits are critical as they establish your way of doing things.
Property restoration career development: Communication
Communication is more than just talking. If you are the one presenting the information, your integrity is essential. Unfortunately, there are too many examples of people who will speak when without thinking about what they are saying or about things that they don’t fully understand. You are not doing yourself or your client a good service if you tell them something just to ease the tension or sound important.
Whenever we would onboard new technicians, or in peak season when we would bring in temporary labor, I would give some variation of a speech about two great communication anathemas that weren’t to be practiced in our team culture:
Property restoration career development: Be intentional
What is a business? In order to have a sustainable property restoration business you will need two things: happy customers and profitable jobs. Too many organizations, and people in a position of leadership, focus on profits as though they are the cause and not the effect. This is not to diminish how important profits are, but to understand that it is much more effective to direct your team members to focus on what they can control. All team members play a role in achieving happy customers and this is where we should focus our training. If you teach your team how to produce happy customers, you will find ways as a team to achieve profitability. On the other hand, if you always preach profits first, you will struggle to achieve happy customers. One is a cause, the other is an effect. Al Erisman, author of The ServiceMaster Story, discussed how early leaders in this flagship restoration organization had the mindset that profits were the subject but not the object of their efforts.
As you develop your career in property restoration, use these three guides:
Being an intentional restorer starts with doing it right. Whatever your roles and responsibilities are, learn how to do them right. Once you have this foundation you can learn to perform these functions more efficiently. This does not mean faster. Yet, efficiency increases overall team speed without cutting corners or sacrificing quality (doing it right). In everything we do, we want to add that sizzle which stamps your work with your way (reflects your culture). When you arrive with booties, lay down flooring protection, set dust control barriers, and close every day with sweeping the worksite, you are showing your customer that you have a way; that you have pride in what you do (excellence).
Jon Isaacson, The Intentional Restorer, is an 18 year veteran of the property restoration industry and a business coach through his organization The DYOJO.