As the restoration industry changes, as adjusters and carriers look for ways to elevate customer satisfaction rates but decrease overall claim costs, restoration companies that embrace and implement technology and add specialized services are taking the lead in this highly competitive marketplace.
Hurricane season is a reminder of how destructive storms can be, not only to structures but also to the contents inside. Restoring water damaged and contaminated soft contents, like beaded purses and wedding dresses, leather goods, and even antique linens handed down for generations, can seem impossible. Yet, with today’s cleaning technologies, these sentimental items can often be restored to their pre-loss condition.
There are many misconceptions adjusters and homeowners have about water damaged soft contents. Either they cannot be restored, or homeowners would rather purchase new clothing. While homeowners love to shop and add to their existing wardrobe, having to replace an entire closet full of damaged clothing, many of them valuable, sentimental or seasonal, is another story.
There’s a benefit to being able to restore versus replace, because replacement is always more expensive. Soft contents, such as clothing, aren’t only functional, they often have sentimental value. On numerous occasions, upon visiting homeowners in my role as a quality assurance manager for the ECONA Network, we have seen claimants express greater emotional attachment to soft contents than to hard contents within a home.
With specialty equipment, technology and testing, more items can now be restored rather than replaced.
Ultrasonic technology, for example, can be used to clean hard content items. Using high-frequency sound waves, microscopic bubbles agitate around submerged items. It’s a highly controlled process where temperature, detergent, and sound-wave strength are monitored. After a few minutes, contents are rinsed, placed in a dryer and prepared for shipping back to the policyholder.
Though powerful, the technology is safe for most common household goods. The advantage to using ultrasonic cleaning to restore hard contents versus cleaning them by hand is the ability to thoroughly clean multiple items simultaneously.
Proprietary wash technology cleans a variety of soft contents, including clothing, pillows, bedding, leather and suede garments, shoes, purses, beaded and sequined items, and sports equipment. This technology has been tested and proven for removal of soot and toxic contaminants, such as from firefighter suits and other personal protective gear.
How clean is clean? Is it a stretch to realize that a child’s favorite stuffed animal won’t just sit on the bed? It’s going to be in their mouth, on the floor, outside, in the car. Don’t even think about what the family dog is going to do to it! So, it’s important, for the homeowner’s peace of mind, to prove that clean really is clean. Rather than relying on opinion (it “looks” clean or it “smells” clean) proprietary wash technology users utilize an ATP device (adenosine triphosphate) to measure bacterial growth on soft contents before and after cleaning. This is the same device used by health departments to monitor and test for restaurant cleanliness.
Choosing a restoration partner
There are things carriers and homeowners should consider when searching for a restoration company. That means choosing vendors that utilize ultrasonic technology, proprietary wash technology, pack out inventory software and claims management software to provide real-time data and tracking for carriers and homeowners.
It’s important to vet potential vendors. The first thing to ask is what type of services they offer. The trend in contents restoration is moving towards companies that can handle the bulk of a homes’ contents, rather than dealing with three or four specialty vendors.
In addition, the vendor should use inventory pack out software to track contents and provide information to adjusters and homeowners via the cloud. This benefit goes beyond inventory control, allowing homeowners and adjusters to track and access contents conveniently online. That’s why the old way of content inventory — using a camera and a tick sheet, isn’t acceptable anymore.
The trend toward offering more services, by implementing new technology, is evidenced by restoration companies adding more specialized services, such as electronics cleaning and soft content cleaning. This one-stop type of service elevates customer satisfaction because a homeowner works with one point of contact versus several.
In fact, it’s likely that within the next five years most restoration companies will clean all types of contents, resulting in less delineation between hard contents, soft contents, and other specialty type services.
Russell Jacobs is the quality assurance manager for ECONA Network, North America’s largest full contents restoration network with over 276 certified service locations. A third-generation dry cleaner who grew up in the family business in Memphis, Jacobs has 25 years of experience in contents restoration. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.