Bill Stewart works as a national general adjuster with Crawford & Company in Jacksonville, Fla. In this installment of Ask an Adjuster, he discussed his background and how it led to his 32-year career with Crawford, as well as the importance of the people in the business.
In the mid-‘70s Bill left a job at the Research Hospital outpatient department in Kansas City to take a part-time job with Allstate as a claim service representative, a position that worked well with his graduate school schedule. He stayed on with Allstate and became an inside property adjuster, outside multi-line adjuster and supervisor. In 1981 he joined Crawford as a Level III property adjuster, then multi-line adjuster in 1984, property general adjuster in 1998, regional general adjuster in 2006 and a national general adjuster in 2012.
When Bill first started out as an inside telephone adjuster, he was a little uneasy about going into the field and meeting people face to face. “What I found was that people were generally nicer and easier to work with in person than they were over the phone,” he says. “It was also an advantage to see what the issues were rather than just hear about them.”
According to Bill, the process is fairly standard when handling a routine claim. Before he contacts the insured he obtains as much information as he can about the claim from the initial information he receives. This research can involve calling the agent or broker who submitted the ACORD form to find out what the insured said when they called in the claim. Then he usually locates the site geographically and will use Google Earth to see what the property actually looks like.
After the visual inspection from the satellite photographs he calls the insured to get as much detail on the loss so he can plan for the on-site inspection and knows what to expect when he arrives. From there, he says, it’s all about people skills. “Upon arriving at the loss location I try to develop a good rapport with the insured or representative I’m meeting with and often will ask a non-business question that may open up some friendly conversation about an area of interest, hopefully giving the insured a comfort level,” he says. “If in an office, for instance, I try to be observant to things that obviously show the person’s interests be it family, sports memorabilia or educational degrees.”
On Bill’s “never to forget list” is remembering that the insured or claimant is a human being facing a problem they didn’t ask for, a problem which needs to be resolved. “I am there to help in that process,” he says. “Even if someone’s personality, lifestyle or other factors may not be particularly pleasant to me personally, they deserve my professionalism and to be treated with fairness, respect and dignity.”
Bill’s advice for other adjusters or people considering the field is simple: be a person of integrity and honesty, be yourself and follow through. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and learn from people in the industry, whether that is adjusters, contractors, supervisors or others. “Realize that this is a career-long learning process and no one knows it all,” he says. “Many people like to tell you what they know so take advantage of it when the opportunity arises, even from claimants and insureds. No one knows their business like the person who started the business. Ten minutes listening to an insured tell you how he started his business and some ‘war stories’ can pay off in understanding not only how to resolve the claim but in gaining knowledge you will need on future losses.”
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