Denise Brown discusses her day-to-day activities in the fabric restoration business
Specialist service providers are among an army of people who turn brand value expectations into action. But is it all that simple?
Insurance Times spent a week with Denise Brown, an account manager with the south coast branch of national service provider, Certified Restoration Drycleaning Network (CRDN), to find out.
My first task this week is to take a rush job back to an elderly couple, whose block of flats was affected by fire.
When we received the authorisation for the work last week, the couple were distraught. The fire was scary enough.
But they said they were going on a cruise at the end of this week, and needed their holiday clothes urgently.
No problem. The insurer saves on emergency payments, but better than that, I get to see this couple's faces light up when I take their stuff back, clean as new, and tell them to enjoy their holiday.
I feel like the Fairy Godmother telling Cinderella she can go to the ball.
After that, I make calls to everyone waiting for their clothes. Some clothes are being restored, and some are in storage.
The long-term storage customers I call once a month, even though it can be up to a year before we return everything.
I also put in calls to all the parties involved in each of the claims - contractors, loss adjusters and insurers to get a status update of each claim.
It's essential to keep in touch.
The day starts with another rush job. I'm going to see a mother with young children, staying in a hotel while their house is refurbished.
I had a fire in my home many years ago and I know how upsetting this is.
It involves just five items, including a girl's bedcover and a Liverpool FC bedcover for the boy, to try to help the children settle.
I'm then off to another address to return a car seat, needed urgently. It might have been several bags of clothes, too, but we were called in six weeks after the loss date. Everything was cashed out long ago.
I learned that most of the items were just smoke damaged, and we have a 98% restoration rate in that category. It's cost the insurer at least double what it could have.
We fit a pair of emergency curtains for a customer, while we restore theirs. Usually we say things like, "all part of the service, no trouble at all, don't mention it".
Not this time. "Will they fit?" we're asked on arrival.
"Oh no. They're not long enough," is the comment once they're up.
I'm waiting for, "they're not really my colour." But I defuse the situation with my smile and professionalism, and we're on our way before I scream.
Back at base I spend another session with production, just keeping on top of everything that's going on.
We're processing 19 restoration jobs at present, in lots of two to 38 bags. We're very good at logistics, and the computer system CRDN uses helps to keeps everything under control.
I need this to boost my morale. Because in the afternoon I take back several bags of dirty, smoke-damaged clothes to a homeowner, whose contents policy had inadequate cover.
This happens sometimes, and it's upsetting and annoying in equal measure.
In this case, having learned through bitter experience, I asked the homeowner what his cover was when we visited in the aftermath of a fire.
I knew straightaway it wouldn't be enough, and I discussed this with the homeowner and adjuster before progressing.
In the normal way we made a room-by-room inventory of everything - salvageable, non-salvageable, non-economical and not-wanted items. But I made a point of asking the homeowner about the really personal items they wanted back.
My colleagues call me a helpaholic. But I knew it would be small consolation in this case.
Sure enough, not long after we'd sent the estimate for the work to the adjuster, the word came back that there was not enough cover for all the work needed.
This customer's most beloved clothes were restored, but the rest of them are coming back untouched.
I feel sorry for the homeowner. The policy he bought just didn't give him enough cover. It has certainly opened my eyes to insure properly. I have enough insurance cover for a similar situation.
When I return to the office, Paul [my manager] asks me if I wouldn't mind cleaning the van. I have a sense of humour. I love people and I'm even an expert in the cleaning business. But I tell Paul I don't wash vans. End of story.
The great thing about this job is the variety. You meet all kinds of people, and get to clean all kinds of clothes, belts, shoes, linen...and Beanie Babies. In fact, you get to clean 888 Beanie Babies, all in one go.
We rescued them from a house where there'd been a fire. They are collectors' items, and this was quite a collection.
We can't take the tags off to clean the babies sufficiently, because if you punch a new hole in them when putting the tag back on, it devalues them. Initially, this news made me want to punch a hole in something else.
The morning starts fine, but it's another too-late entry for CRDN in the claims process.
A basement has flooded, and we're picking up some clothes that are wet and mouldy, but the homeowner has already thrown a lot out, not realising they could have been restored.
CRDN head office has worked out that the average time between the loss date and the date we get called in is eight days - that's eight days too many.
At lunch-time I attend a charity event in Bristol. As well as doing charity work, it's also a chance to network with other contractors and loss adjusters.
I tell them that clothing and soft fabrics make up a quarter of all household contents, which surprises them. Given the levels of work we've had this year, it doesn't surprise me.
Finally, I'm back at the office to review the week. We're on call over the weekend, of course. Fires and floods don't just happen in office hours - this is a 24/7 business.
But I bid farewell to the Beanie Babies and make my way home, sparing a thought for the elderly couple, setting off on their cruise. Have a great time, folks. IT
CRDN UK is made up of a nationwide network of established drycleaners. It specialises in restoring clothing, textiles and fabric items damaged by fire, smoke, water, mould or other contaminants