The title of the email has significance to me. When I was working on “It Will Never Happen to Me! – the strategic management of crisis in business” I needed some help to finish it as I was stretched with my workload at the time. The daughter of a long standing friend, (the man that programmed v.1 of PolicyComparison.com) Caitlin Fry offered to help and she provided great assistance converting my doctoral thesis into a book that the industry could benefit from. Caitlin now owns and runs a book store in the Adelaide Hills called Jeff’s Books. She wrote to me following damage to her store. She had not read my recent blog about my own claim but I thought it was worth sharing her observations about her loss and claim experience.
Just letting you know I gave your book a plug on the Jeff’s Books Facebook page this week because I had to use the lessons from it!
On Tuesday night the hairdressers next to the bookshop had the pipes burst on their hair washing station, resulting in water pouring out the front door at 2am – they have a lino floor, so just broomed it out and didn’t think to let us know. This was on the Wednesday (when we didn’t really notice anything) – so by Thursday morning the water had soaked through half our shop carpet, having taken that long to soak through the bookcases.
Luckily, we haven’t had many books actually in contact with the water, but we’re now just waiting to see if sitting in bookcases on wet carpet will lead to damp damage – meanwhile I’ve been emptying bookcases like mad (of course Al’s [husband] away at work at the moment!)
But, as per your book, I’ve been keeping the attitude positive, offering people a go at belting out 80’s power ballads into the blowers and even had trouble keeping customers away (because so many secondhand bookstores are discombobulated areas of stacked books all over the floor they don’t actually realise there’s something wrong.)
While the actual loss will be minimal, it’s likely the carpeting will need replacing, and with 25,000 odd books that’s easier said than done!
Meanwhile, the hairdressers realise their flooring would be affected by the water – so while I got blowers and humidifiers onto our floor within hours of finding the water, yesterday was the first time they realised their floor was bubbling and mortar-work under their front door has crumbled. (The old theatre was built in 1935 and it’s Jarrah boards, so it’s just whatever’s over the top that’s affected.) Given they had a robbery in the last 12 months, I don’t envy them their premiums – and I’m glad they’re able to continue trading because I get secondary trade from them (such as people killing time before/after appointments or husbands browsing while “the Mrs” gets her hair done) [We of course know this as loss of attraction]
We have the benefit of having the same landlord for the whole building and as there’s an insurance broker one street over the landlord and hairdressers have the same broker, insurer and loss adjuster we do – which has made things a lot quicker and easier.
There is one thing I would maybe want to pass on to others with commercial tenancies (I’ve been chatting to my fellow secondhand bookshops with more specific “lessons learned”) – the responsibility for flooring can go either way. In some leases it’s considered a part of the building, and therefore the responsibility of the landlord. In others it’s considered a shop fitting, and therefore the responsibility of the tenant.
And in others (such as ours) it’s not actually spelled out – and even though the flooring is being replaced under our insurance, the flooring company still need permission from the landlord to get started. [A very valid point that Catlin makes. It is too late after the event to find out that one party or the other was supposed to insure it and no one did].
Naturally a lot of my friends have wanted to help, but given the work required and the location of the shop they’ve assumed they can’t – however what’s been really great is the other support, such as my parents minding Matilda, cooking me dinner, helping with washing at home etc. I was able to get hold of the original Jeff, who was able to tell me about the shop set up prior to him setting it up, and how he secured the bookcases to the walls. We’ve also had the benefit of sharing a building with butchers – once I’d emptied bookcases, they were able to move them easily because they are trained and used to shouldering carcasses, so are great at lifting things safely – they also had the waterproof brooms to lend the hairdressers! [As an industry we rarely take the time to thank those that help our insureds even though they mitigate the loss. In some cases I have worked with the insurer to fund a BBQ or the like as a thank you. The cost is small but the publicity for the insurer and brand insurance is great].
We’re meeting with the flooring people tomorrow (I wanted to wait until Al was home) to assess timings for getting things back to normal – luckily being such a big shop premises we can carpet it in halves, without having to empty the entire premises or hire storage for stock. While the flooring people can help with packing and unpacking, an alternative I was considering was to make a donation to the local Friends of the Library to get some of their volunteers, who often help with re-shelving in the library, so that we might be able to help a local community group out of this too.
So, I hope to continue plugging your book, and you’ll be pleased to know no Churchills [the author she knows I will always buy] were harmed in the process!
I naturally offered any assistance including Erik Kroon from our Adelaide office should she need any help with her claim.
That was email 1. The follow up today was:
Just as an update, today we’re finally getting a visit from the re-carpeters to measure up and provide a quote to the insurer, so I’m hoping we can get the carpet started before Al returns to work!
I was a little surprised that the re-carpeters were just told, “Go get a quote from this address” – they hadn’t even been told it was a commercial premises. If the re-carpeters maybe knew it was a commercial premises and the floor measurements I provided the insurer then some things could already be started (ie as soon as I mentioned it was a shop the guy immediately said, “Oh, so I’ll be bringing the other swatch-book”)
The emergency flooring guy who removed the carpet would have been able to provide details of the carpet he removed (as it’s like for like), as well as other information such as age of carpet, the flooring beneath the carpet, confirmed the measurements, etc. – so a 30 second chat would have saved a lot of time.
It’s been quite frustrating because we’ve virtually had to stop trading for a fortnight while the insurer argues with itself (as we have the same broker and insurer as the hairdressers and the landlord) – they said from the beginning there had to be new carpet and we could have got the process started while they sorted out where to send the invoice.
There must be something about bookshops because I just found out (because they’re still new to the internet) the Adelaide Booksellers had a flooded storeroom around the same time!
But, on the plus side, the lovely girls at Three Four Knock on the Door (a children’s bookshop in Port Melbourne) this week won the “Best of Port 2016” award (children’s category), despite losing everything in a fire last August – http://www.threefour.com.au/
Caitlin’s dad, Ian Fry is one of the most enthusiastic disciples of lessons learned and has done a lot to shape my thinking in this space. We really do need to listen more to the feedback from our Insured’s as to what they think we do right and what they think we can improve from. Are we asking the right questions and what do we do with the answers?
This applies equally to catastrophe response or business as usual claims.
For example, Caitlin’s experience with trades is seen so (far too) often. I am sure we can streamline the process of appointing trades and just by giving meaningful instructions save time and money and of course look like we know what we are doing.
As it is the same insurer on both the building and both tenants with no suggestion that anyone is under insured, do we really have to bother and or stress the Insureds with who is going to pay. Just with a change of a few words we could look much more caring and professional.
If we do not start listening to our customers and taking and actioning the lessons learned will anything ever change?
As Caitlin mentioned Churchill, I draw on his view of looking at things. We can either be a pessimist or an optimist about the current state of claims handling.
I am optimistic, I believe it will only take one firm to start to delivers half reasonable service and they will disrupt the status quo. They will gain market share, increase their retention rate and reduce their average claim cost all in the one go. By doing things right and concentrating on the customer and paying a fair price to trades, loss adjusters and other service providers they will get preferential treatment which in turn will deliver a better customer service for their clients which in turn will drive more growth and profit and so it goes.