There is no such thing as “a convenient time” when it comes having a fire happen in your home. But during the holidays, it is especially a very difficult time to have something so traumatic happen to your home. After all, home and family is what the holiday season is all about.
With this in mind as restorers we need to take extra care to ease any burden that our clients may find themselves experiencing this time of year. Let’s talk about some ways we can do this and some special consideration when on-boarding your clients during the holidays.
First, we should always be providing our clients with resources that are needed during this time of loss. Like information on how to replace legal documents, birth certificates, damaged money, passports, etc.
Then we need to consider the change in weather going from possibly quite warm to very cold in the next few weeks and how this may affect the clothing that may need to be put on rush order status so we can return items like coats, long sleeve shirts, hats, boots and winter gloves sooner than later. Put a rush on these types of items and process them first when cleaning laundry.
There are lots of parties and family get-togethers happening. This could mean there is a need for fancy dresses, suits and dress shoes. If any of these items were non-restorable then we would need to determine that right away so they can be replaced quickly if necessary.
It is very important that we have a conversation with our clients and ask them questions at the beginning of the loss about their holiday plans so we can help them navigate what they may need restored and returned as soon as possible. Remember, they have a lot on their plate right now dealing with all the moving parts of an insurance loss. What they are going to wear to Aunt Julie’s Thanksgiving dinner party is probably the last thing on their mind. But when they remember it one night while trying to fall asleep, the anxiety and stress will follow really fast. We can help relieve a lot of unnecessary stress by thinking ahead for them.
Presents and Decorations
We could also be dealing with holiday decorations like a Christmas tree being on display when the fire happened causing damage to family heirloom ornaments. Presents being damaged or destroyed that were wrapped with love and care and placed beneath the tree waiting for Christmas morning to be opened.
When handling Christmas presents be sure to do so discreetly so as not to give away a surprise as your client may be able to go out and buy the same item again as a gift to give to their loved one.
Christmas tree ornaments are especially difficult to restore. Not only because of the materials that they are usually made out of but because of the often high emotional value they have. If a Christmas tree ornament is non restorable treat it with care as your client may want it back regardless due to sentimental value. Even if they agree to let it go and for you to dispose of it, it still means a lot to them and it’s hard to let go of something that we care about.
The holidays can also be a very financially stressful time for people. Add on top of that stress the thought that they may have to run out and buy Christmas presents all over again and you’ve got yourself one seriously stressed out client. Be ready with information about local charities and community programs that help families buy presents and even provide Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners so you can give this information to your client.
As a company this may be something that you choose to do for your clients during this time of year. You can provide dinners, clothes and even presents for children or other family members. I have also seen restoration companies replace Christmas trees, ornaments and other holiday decor to help give those affected by such a tragedy find some peace and hope in such a tough circumstance.
Kind, Compassionate and Caring
The biggest thing I feel we can do as restorers is put ourselves in their shoes. Imagine how you would feel to come home and see your house decorated for the holidays, ravished by fire and soot. In place of all the holiday joy, you are now dealing with strangers in your home handling all of your belongings while you are sent to a hotel to stay with your family.
Anytime we are dealing with something as tragic as a fire in a home we always want to be kind, compassionate and caring. The holidays are just a time when we really want to be extra attentive to our clients’ needs.
This is not always easy to do. They may be distracted, angry and, quite frankly, not very nice because of all that they are dealing with. Just don’t take it personally. Stay compassionate and understanding. Be professional and go above and beyond for your client especially now.
Give them grace.