Troy Fairchild is co-founder and CEO of Claims Made Easy, a web-based solution simplifying the insurance claims process for homeowners. Troy is an entrepreneurial thought leader and an expert on the insurance claims process. He welcomes anyone to reach out to him on Twitter or Google+.
MO: What inspired you to launch Claims Made Easy.com?
Troy: After graduating from college, I went to work in the financing industry for nine years, specializing in real estate financing. It made investing in the real estate market a natural fit for me. Over the years, I’ve acquired a portfolio of properties that I continue to manage today.
I was very lucky when I started to invest; after a while, my luck ran out. My first insurance claim was due to a fire at a property next door to one of my rentals. The fire was so hot it literally melted the siding off my house. A friend who was an independent agent told me I would need to file a claim with my specific insurance carrier and find a contractor to do the work.
Since I’d never needed to make any large repairs on a property before, I wasn’t sure which contractor I should use, so I asked my agent for advice. He was unable to help, since he was in Kansas City and this particular property was about 60 miles away. He told me he didn’t know any contractors in that area, and advised me to ask my adjuster.
I ended up getting the same answer, though. I researched contractors, and the first three I called were out of business. I was told about Angie’s List and Service Magic. I found out I would have to pay a monthly fee just to see reviews on local contractors, or I would get an overwhelming number of calls from contractors wanting the work once I listed it.
I started to hear horror stories from people who had contractors take their deposits and then walk off the job. I even heard stories about contractors who would promise long warranties, then close their companies every few years and reopen under different names to avoid carrying the warranties they’d promised to customers to get their business. This was truly becoming a full-time job on top of the full-time job I already had.
I asked my agent, “Why isn’t there a place I can go to find prescreened contractors, showing me all the things I want to know about them, without having to spend so much time trying to track down all the information on my own?” His answer was simple. He told me what I wanted didn’t exist and asked, “Why don’t you create it?”
MO: What is the big problem Claims Made Easy.com is solving for homeowners?
Troy: Our main goal would be to protect the homeowner. It’s true that we make finding qualified contractors easy for the homeowner. We have a paperless platform where contractors can upload quotes and product information, adjusters can easily upload their worksheets for everyone to see, and agents, adjusters, and homeowners can all communicate with each other without having to worry about losing any documentation. All these things help the claims process, but our main goal is to protect the homeowner.
We want to protect the homeowner from having a bad experience — from experiencing fraud, shoddy work, or frustration over trying to find the right contractor. Any homeowner who has had a contractor perform poor work, or had a contractor walk off the job, knows the stress it can cause. By using our site and dealing with our prescreened contractors, the chances of a homeowner having a negative experience go down.
MO: How does the Claims Made Easy process work?
Troy: It’s very simple. Homeowners can come to our website and create a profile in a matter of minutes. Then, they link to their agents and adjusters if they are also members on our site. After this, they simply click on a bid request tab and put in a few details about the damage to the property. Based on their location and the scope of work they need, we provide them with a list of contractors in their area who are approved to do the work.
Once they have the list of contractors, they can view each contractor’s profile to see which is the best fit. If they still can’t decide who they want to use, they can request to have specific contractors contact them so they can set up a time to come by the house and work up a quote. The contractors have 48 hours to reach out to the customer to set up an appointment. They then have 14 days to upload their quotes.
Homeowners receive automatic emails to inform them about where they are in the process so there’s never any confusion on what to expect. Once all the quotes are uploaded and the homeowner feels comfortable with a specific contractor or quote, the homeowner can select the contractor online.
The true beauty of our system is that we keep everyone informed throughout the process. If the homeowner chooses a contractor, his agent, adjuster, and contractor will all be informed simultaneously, saving the homeowner from having to make three separate phone calls. Every action is time-stamped in the system; if the homeowner has a question about the claim years later, he will be able to log in and see exactly what happened and when.
MO: I see on your site that you cater to the needs of homeowners, insurance agents, contractors, and adjusters. Please highlight why each of these groups would find your service useful.
Troy: Contractors: There are a lot of good contractors out there. Unfortunately, there are a lot of bad contractors, too. These bad contractors give other contractors a bad name. Our site ensures that the good contractors are the ones who get the work; in turn, we help the industry improve as a whole. We spend a lot of time and money marketing what we do to homeowners, agents, and adjusters; in a way, we are an extension of the contractors’ marketing and sales team. We are continuously driving business to the contractors who provide high-quality work.
Homeowners: As I’ve noted, we strive to protect the homeowner, while also helping him save time. We want to give him peace of mind that he won’t end up with a bad contractor.
Agents: I have realized, over the years, that there are some agents who are very involved in their clients’ claims, and others who don’t want to be involved at all. We designed this product with both types of agents in mind. If an agent doesn’t want to be involved, he still benefits by making sure his clients have a good experience and use a good contractor. If a homeowner has a good claims experience, he is much more likely to renew with the same agent. And if the customer uses a good contractor, the chances of fraud and future repair work go down, translating to lower loss ratios and higher profits for the agent.
Adjusters: Adjusters want to be able to adjust as much work as possible. We try to make their jobs easier by giving them all the information they need and keeping them updated. That way, they can focus on what’s important and be more efficient. The adjuster can easily upload his worksheet for the homeowner. He can communicate back and forth with the contractor if something comes up, and he can rest assured that everything is documented and time-stamped for his protection. He can also have the homeowner upload receipts to the system so he’s not constantly chasing receipts down and trying to keep them organized. Also, with our site, the homeowner is still responsible for choosing the contractor he wants, and that takes a lot of liability off the adjuster.
MO: Where does your entrepreneurial spirit come from?
Troy: My whole family is in medicine — my father is a doctor, my mother is an RN, my sister is in the middle of her residency, my father-in-law is a doctor, and my brother- and sister-in-law are both doctors — so I guess you could say I should have been a doctor, too. But I never saw myself wearing a white lab coat.
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have some kind of business venture going on. In elementary school, my brother and I would harvest the seeds from my mother’s flower garden and then go around the neighborhood, selling them. When I was old enough to mow lawns, I immediately partnered with another boy in the neighborhood to start a mowing company. We made about 100 copies of our flyer and spent an entire Saturday going door-to-door to every house within walking distance. Within a couple weeks, we had more lawns than we could get to. I always used to carry a notepad with me; anytime I would see something I could improve, I’d write it down in my book.
After college, I started buying rental properties, and I still own eight of them today. They are the reason I started Claims Made Easy, and I am convinced that no matter what happens in my life, I will always have real estate.
MO: What professional accomplishment are you most proud of thus far in your career?
Troy: I am proudest of what I am doing now. Claims Made Easy helps so many people during stressful times; the fact that we are able to help such a large number of people and that we have so much room for growth makes me prouder than I could ever be. Claims Made Easy has barely scratched the surface of its potential. We have so many ideas for ways we can make CME even better. I’m excited to see where we will be two years from now.
MO: What are you most excited about for the future of Claims Made Easy.com?
Troy: Eric is constantly improving our software. We are expanding into new markets. There are a lot of great things happening, but the one thing I am most excited about is just being able to help more people. Nothing is more gratifying than hearing someone tell you how you helped him and how much it meant. I’m most excited about the thought that I’ll be able to help more homeowners find good contractors, that I’ll be able to prevent those people from possibly ending up with shady contractors, and that their families will be happier during a stressful time.
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