Whether you are utilizing Xactimate, Claims Connect, T&M or any other estimating software, only you know the job, have been to the site, talked to the property owner and understand what the job requires. Subsequently, only you could effectively write a detailed estimate — an estimate that likely has to meet the compliance requirements of an insurer.
While it may have been the case in the past that only you could write that estimate, is it still true today?
There are great innovations that are advancing the evolution of estimating: 3D scans like Matterport or DocuSketch, scoping tools to assist in gathering the right information, and automated review services. Estimators can now reference consistent scopes at the same time as performing a virtual walk-through of a job, even comparing side-by-side pre- and post-demolition changes.
Estimating is tough. It’s not 20 years ago when quotes were a few lines on a single piece of paper. It’s not even 10 years ago when contractors and adjusters generally knew each other well enough to regularly resolve issues quickly over the phone. Today, estimating is knowing thousands of items in a pricing database, understanding what is involved in tasks across all the trades involved, knowing insurer and third-party administrator (TPA) protocol, and having access to the tools needed to ensure an estimate is complete, prompt, profitable and compliant. This is specialists’ work, and if your team could use an expanded resource pool of estimators, consider a remote estimating company.
Remote or third-party estimating companies focus only on estimating. Their specialist teams are made up of estimate writing wizards, geniuses of graphical estimating and magicians of macros. These dedicated estimators may have gravitated away from managing trades and keeping up with client communication, while leaning towards the technical aspects and nuts-and-bolts of how each trade handles tasks. To these estimators, learning to codify tasks into pricing databases is not a roadblock to getting work started, but an obvious and fundamental part of the progression of the job. They have a deep understanding of the many facets of estimating.
Could remote estimating enhance your business? Perhaps it is not front of mind right now, but consider the following:
Reasons To Get Started With a Third-Party Estimating Company
You want your company to be prepared. Try a service before you need one.
Staffing issues can come up quickly, now more than ever, and having a system in place to increase estimating resources is good practice. Restoration companies are accustomed to having the ability to call in additional labor and equipment to handle a catastrophe. Why not have a plan to scale your estimating for the same event?
Pro tip: Don’t wait until you are suddenly in a high-job-volume scenario to use an estimating service. The time to acquaint yourself with the process is not when you are juggling incoming jobs and already have a stack of files on your desk. While offering similar services, not all estimating companies are the same. They have different payment terms, different required documents to write an estimate and they ultimately will deliver a different product. Find the right company for you. If you are not satisfied with the first, try, try again.
Enhanced training and education.
Once you find the right company to work with, recognize that the associated costs can be part of ongoing training for you and your team. An expertly written estimate will often return items that you may not have considered in the past, and it can demonstrate techniques that you may not be accustomed to seeing. Once you’ve had the opportunity to consider these ideas, you can implement them on future estimates. Involving expert estimators from a resource pool outside of your own organization will provide an injection of new ideas.
Staffing. Free up valuable human resources.
Project managers and estimators are valuable human resources to restoration contractors. Having the ability to outsource and scale your estimating capacity can free up your in-house project managers’ and estimators’ time to focus on job management, customer care and communication between trades.
Added commentary to support your estimate.
Some of the best estimate-writing companies utilize macros, batches and note templates that are included to support their entries. For example, entering an air scrubber into the estimate will automatically have a note that supports its inclusion by referencing the appropriate IICRC and/or OSHA guidelines. Properly supporting your estimate before it has a chance to be questioned can improve cycle times, key performance indicators (KPIs) and relationships. Make a clear and compelling case before an objection can be raised.
The requirements of estimating have evolved over the years, becoming more complicated and nuanced. I have been both a contractor and a manager of a remote estimating team in my career. This experience has given me a unique vantage point to witness estimating change and evolve over the years as well as to see some best practices of restoration contractors. Estimators can go on vacation, get sick or move on to another role. Managers overseeing an estimating team should always anticipate and plan for this.
From the perspective of a restoration contractor, I believe some of the best internal teams are the ones capable of writing most of the estimates most of the time, while also developing a relationship and working with a remote estimating company capable of scaling to meet any foreseeable demands.