Hands-on Training: Why Claims Adjusters Should Get Their Hands Dirty

By Bob Crowley | April 10, 2014

As a claims professional, you need to know more than insurance regulations and customers’ insurance policies. Depending on your specialty area, you may need to be a motorcycle enthusiast, know the finer points of roof repair or speak the language of a boat owner. But if you’re not inclined to take up any of these pursuits as hobbies, a strong grounding in specific product lines may be the next best thing.

Claims adjusters can gain the technical skills needed to assess and settle claims most effectively through hands-on claims training. With practical knowledge at their disposal, adjusters can best understand the true cost of repairs and make educated and accurate decisions.

What is hands-on training?

Hands-on claims training gets claims professionals out of the classroom and into the workshop. Quality training shows adjusters how to complete the common repairs for which they will write and approve estimates.

In motorcycle insurance lines, for example, claims for bent frames are common. More often than not, this type of damage is caused by a single driver accident: the rider drops his or her bike, often after hitting gravel or making a sharp turn to avoid another vehicle. At my company’s claims training center, students work on a motorcycle with this kind of damage. We provide them a work station and tools to help them experience how a mechanic might repair such damage, removing all the parts and pieces from the frame and assembling those correctly on a new frame. This allows adjusters to become familiar with all the parts, pieces, tools and equipment involved, down to the nuts and bolts.

Hands-on training is equally enlightening for handling manufactured housing claims. Many novice adjusters assume all housing claims are the same, but manufactured homes are built and maintained differently than site built homes. With the latter, you do not need to consider factors like installing tie-downs and the practical functions of skirting.

To demonstrate key differences and common issues with manufactured home repairs, we flood a kitchen and a living room space. Students determine if the kitchen cabinets need to be removed and reinstalled or completely replaced. Once they make this determination, the students pull out the cabinets, replace the subfloor (if needed) and install the existing or new cabinetry.

During this exercise, we use particle board flooring, which is common in manufactured homes but not site built homes. The particular board subfloor in a manufactured home is often glued to the joist and installed prior to building the walls. Students must cut the flooring along the base of the walls and apply two-by-four nailers along the wall to provide a “nailable” surface for installing the new subfloor. Finally, they determine whether to reuse or replace the original baseboards.

At the end of this type of training, adjusters know the way manufactured homes are put together and the types of repairs not common to site built homes. Instructors speak to the varied components of the home and how they impact one another, as well as accounting for the quality and grade of building materials. Does a particular grade need to be replaced, or can it be repaired? Using the manufactured home example, particle board will often need to be replaced, but other types of subfloors can be dried out and saved.

The training also reinforces the urgency of collecting information and making prompt decisions. For example, at our training center, we provide hands-on exercises for water remediation and smoke cleaning. We flood several rooms of a site built home and teach students industry best practices for water remediation and smoke cleaning. Water damage to floor and walls in site built homes does not always necessitate replacement. In fact, water remediation equipment can save the floors and walls—but that decision must be made quickly, sometimes within hours. With hands-on training, claims students know how to make that call.

Better claims outcomes

Hands-on training can improve all aspects of the claims handling process. It helps claims students write correct estimates, which leads to more accurate indemnity payments. By providing students with the experience of completing repairs, they will have a comprehensive understanding of the entire repair process. Students will better understand the labor hours involved and will walk away with the ability to write detailed and accurate estimates.

When estimates are correct the first time, there is a lesser chance of re-inspections and supplemental payments. Plus, the cycle time of the claim is reduced, which leads to improved customer satisfaction. Adjusters can also be more accurate when they can speak competently to contractors about repairs. This is the knowledge that separates expert adjusters from less experienced ones and helps them get both accurate estimates and repairs done quickly.

It’s no secret that reducing the time to settle and providing accurate payments leads to greater customer satisfaction. Hands-on training gives adjusters the knowledge and confidence to assess damage, write estimates and negotiate the cost of repairs. This means customers have their property restored or repaired with minimal hassle. With the proper claims processing model, it will also result in lower loss adjustment cost.

All of these benefits boil down to one thing: confidence. With hands-on training under their belts, adjusters can trust their understanding of the process and their ability to pay the right amount the first time. More than anything, hands-on training gives adjusters confidence when talking to both insureds and contractors. And that confidence isn’t misguided—it’s grounded in real knowledge and experience.

 Robert Crowley, SIS, AMIGBob Crowley is vice president-claims of Specialty Insurance Services Corporation www.siservices.com, a claims management and training subsidiary of American Modern Insurance Group www.amig.com located in Amelia, Ohio. Contact BCrowley@amig.com or 800-375-2075 ext. 5482.

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