In the service industry, people attempt to cheat on a regular basis. Homeowners do it by trying to short-pay a bill, tell white lies to tilt events to their favor, or make veiled attempts to obtain free services. Insurance companies do it by delaying payment, denying justifiable damage, or defending questionable practices. Estimators do it by omitting services, using inferior quality goods, or padding numbers for their employer. Intentional or unintentional, as a professional it is likely that you will work with those who cheat. It is imperative that you prepare in advance for how you will approach these situations.
Dan Ariely, speaker and author of The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty, believes, “Corruption is not about being bad, it’s about being human.” In a research experiment about cheating, he found that 70% of the 40,000 people tested cheated. These test subjects did not cheat significantly, but they felt as if they could “fudge” or misbehave a little and still feel like a good person. Given these results, it is likely you have been in a room today with someone who is okay with cheating (just a little).
Prepare Your Company
The best way to keep those around you from cheating is to make it socially unacceptable to cheat in your circle. As an employer, remember that people cheat, so you need to set ground rules, an honor code, or core values that remind others of the moral fiber in the business. These values are not set-them-and-forget-them principles, but a daily lifestyle and a constant reminder of how to interact with others. The concepts around cheating are not foreign; fairness, rule following, and being competitive are taught daily to school children. The value of these lessons is not lost when entering the workforce and financial gain is not a good reason to cheat. Instead, remind others of the elements that make up the moral fiber of your company.
Once there is momentum against cheating in your organization, the internal compass of the people around you should help them continue down the same path. Good habits are as strong as the habit of cheating. Further, you will find that once you let customers know your company does not participate in cheating, you will attract more customers who agree with your philosophy and also do not want to cheat. All of this comes from knowing what the line is between acceptable and unacceptable and practicing how to handle the conversation.
Prepare for Homeowners
In general, large roofers with significant overhead ensure they have prepared well for their discussions with homeowners. This is especially true now that deductibles are increasingly dependent on a percentage of the value of the insured home and an ever-increasing knowledge from the internet that provides information on how to acquire free upgrades to materials. When approached by a homeowner who wants their deductible “waived” or “absorbed,” roofers have practiced their pitch hundreds if not thousands of times with a range of successful outcomes.
When asked to provide free services, they follow a pattern in their answer. First, they recognize that there is something the homeowner wants: “I appreciate that you have a $4,000 deductible and that you are looking for ways to take care of it.” Then, they note the authority that does not allow them to engage in the homeowner’s want: “One of our core values at XYZ company is that we “Do the right thing always.” Next, they take them through the rationale of why they must refuse the offer of participation: “As a team, we have talked about deductibles and decided this would amount to engaging in an illegal activity.” Finally, they involve the homeowner with a question: “Do you want to be involved in insurance fraud?”
There seems to be an unexhaustive combination of requests from customers that challenge people in service-business operations. To combat them, it is recommended that you practice addressing potential conversations on a regular basis.
Prepare for Adjusters
Adjusters don’t start in their job intending to cheat. It’s over time that they discover it is socially acceptable to “fudge” the numbers or take a path that causes them the least work. Then, instead of properly researching an estimate, they rely strictly on a pricing guide and will not accept a rational, well thought-out change to the pricing.
Remember the insurance company has potentially spent years building trust with the client you met only a few days or weeks earlier. Because of this, it is important you lay the groundwork for them to trust you early in the sales process. Your goal is to know that when the adjuster calls and states they will only accept the pricing guide price, the client’s response will be, “I expected them to be more expensive due to the quality of service they provide. The quoted price is in line with what I look for in a company.” One of the greatest victories an estimator can have is to know they will receive the above answer from a client when they ask an adjuster, “Who is going to inform the homeowner you are not covering this portion of the bill?”
To prepare for the possibility that the adjuster may cheat, you must prepare the client for the unfortunate fact that they may experience cheating in the process. In your company, start with the value proposition that you provide to clients. Discuss with your estimators or salespeople how to drive these points home while informing the homeowner of future interactions around pricing that may occur as you strive to provide the level of service they deserve from your company. This step in the sales process will save your office a significant amount of time negotiating with adjusters.
Preparing people in your office is significantly easier and merely requires patience with the others involved. Remember for many adjusters, it is socially acceptable in their company to “fudge” numbers or put forth low effort in their interactions.
Many adjusters are slow to respond, so you must initiate contact and follow up to achieve a positive outcome. Whether by phone, email, or text, the adjuster is just too “busy” to respond in a reasonable time frame to your requests. Follow up, set expectations for their response, and include the homeowner on communications. When the homeowner sees you are driving their claim, they will respond favorably and continue to give you their trust.
Service industry professionals take pride in how long they have been in the business and it is no different for adjusters. This badge of honor turns into a stumbling block in negotiations. To properly prepare your team for the adjuster who cheats, prepare them for the conversation that begins with, “I’ve been an adjuster for longer than you’ve been a contractor…” because they will hear this more often than they should. Your estimator will need to let go of every bit of pride they have in their tenure, let the adjuster “win” the conversation of knowing more about adjusting a loss, and instead of indulging in more of the conversation, simply ask, “Who is responsible for paying this portion of my bill?” Learning how to accomplish this with tact and grace will result in shorter, less-frustrating conversations for your team.
Prepare Your Estimators
If you have prepared your company to not cheat, established cheating is unacceptable, and have reminded them they are a part of something bigger, you will not have to worry about your estimators cheating. But your company may not be there yet. If this is the case, spend time with your estimators to talk about their jobs and how they are meeting their goals for quality, timeliness, and profit. You will likely uncover areas where they are “fudging” the numbers to make themselves, their subs, or the company look good or give the false sense that they are performing well. If in your business nobody is asking these questions, they will cheat.
Before homeowners, adjusters, or people in your business cheat, prepare for the fact that cheating is likely to happen. Discuss and acknowledge how you will handle cheating with each group. This preparation will make your work life easier, relationships better, and help you rest with a little more ease. After all, “corruption (cheating) is not about being bad, it’s about being human.”