May 26, 2012 (Original publish date) • By Dennis Beaver
Returning home from a day trip in the early hours of the morning to water everywhere set the stage for a rare positive email from Becky, a retired high school English teacher living in Visalia with her husband. Both are 85 years young and received what can only be described as exceptional customer service.
“Your article about the disaster restoration company and its dishonest customer got our attention, in part because we recently had our own horrible experience with a burst water pipe, and were so fortunate with the high degree of service provided both by our homeowners insurance claims adjuster and the damage restoration company.
“Our water pressure regulator failed, causing a section of pipe to explode. Water pipes coming into most properties in our neighborhood are huge — 2-inch diameter — which means that pressure is very high and you must have a regulator. Testing your home’s water pressure is so important and easy. A gauge costs less than $20. Eighty psi or under is what you must have, we learned.
“After shutting the main water valve, we phoned homeowners claims and in less than 90 minutes, two angels arrived: our claims adjuster and the damage restoration supervisor with his crew. It was 3 in the morning!”
An unexpected suggestion
“Our house was inspected, lots of photos were taken and the supervisor was thorough and took plenty of time in explaining how they find water damage by using high-tech cameras which see moisture behind walls, and under the floor, to help avoid mold issues down the road.
“We signed a number of contracts and other documents after our adjuster gave her approval. This was all new to us — you don’t have busted water pipes every day, if ever, and who reads a homeowners insurance policy before a loss?”
“And then, something happened which was completely unexpected and made a reality out the TV commercials which tell you how wonderful it is to have this or that homeowners insurance.
“Our adjuster asked us to sit at the kitchen table, and in such a reassuring tone of voice, told us the following:
“Fortunately, water appears to have run for just a few hours, not days, but it is still going to be a real job in drying your home and preventing mold. The drying process requires using powerful fans, and possibly opening up certain walls, depending upon where the water settled. This means noise, a lot of noise and real inconvenience, with the crew coming in and out, removing furniture, carpets, anything that got wet and needs to be dried.
“Your insurance has a very good additional living expense provision, so you do not have to remain here while work is being done. I will help you pack what you need right now, and book you into a nice hotel downtown. In fact, I’ve already reserved your room. We will cover food and other related expenses during the time your home cannot safely be lived in.
“Mr. Beaver, at that time, I began to cry. Our adjuster truly was the angel we needed right at that moment. It took about three weeks to repair the damage, and we just could not be more satisfied with the way everyone dealt with us. We heard from the restoration company often and always did what they asked of us to help put things back to normal. I know that you hear more complaints than compliments, but I’ll bet our experience is the rule and not the exception.”
Staying involved in the process leads to a better outcome
“Dennis, this is a great story, and your readers had such a positive experience, in part, because they were involved in the restoration process,” commented Tampa-based Pete Consigli, a friend of this column and a national authority in restoration and damage repair.
“The property owner has an obligation to their loss. Never just turn it over to the company and walk away. You must be involved, in the loop. It is your home and you need to stay involved in the process, at whatever level you feel comfortable, to assure that your property is restored back to pre-loss condition,” he observes.
“This story also illustrated something that happens every day, but does not get the attention merited. And that’s the important role of claims adjusters at times like this.
“In the 35 years that I have been in this industry, your reader’s experience truly is the rule, and not the exception.
“The most successful claims adjusters will be good communicators and have compassion for the insured. And the same thing can be said for the restoration crew that comes to your house, just like with Becky, at 3 in the morning.”
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.