Skip to content
Try for free

July 21, 2023

Running the race with third-party estimators: Document to win

Working with a third-party estimator can help your property restoration businesses in many ways; third-party estimators can give you better margins with more accurate estimates, freeing your crew to instead focus on training your team and satisfying your customers. But even though these estimators are hired to help you, ensuring your field teams hand off the right information is critical to getting the most return out of outsourcing your estimating.

We recently had an open discussion with Encircle's third party estimators experts Bobby Paine and Nate Judy on writing better estimates; here are some of their top tips to keep top of mind!

Tip 1: Provide specific scope information 🎯

This first tip may seem obvious, but it’s important that field techs provide third-party estimators with specific information in their scope. And while they may already be providing some information, you need to step back and consider if it’s enough information for an estimator to really work off of. Simply stating that a tech tore something out and put it back is technically informing them of what happened on site, but isn’t providing them with nearly enough information or context to work off of.

Think of restoring a property loss like a relay race; in order for everybody to win, they need to do their part successfully before they pass the baton to the next person. On restoration jobs, your field documentation is your baton — techs needs to gather this information completely in order for an estimator to run their leg of the race. That field documentation that techs are handing off needs to be as detailed, accurate, and thorough as possible so that everyone else can run their leg of the race and get to the finish line.

Techs accomplish a lot on site — much more than they’re giving themselves credit for! Try teaching them to note down details that may seem obvious to them. For example, rather than saying that they “did drywall,” dive into the specifics of what this entailed. Estimators can’t just be taking guesses — each piece of information helps flesh out the story of each loss for them, making the estimate richer and more complete!

Tip 2: Include visuals of the loss 👀

In addition to the scope information, third-party estimators also need to provide a visualization of the property. This could include photos, videos, or even a 3D rendering of the property. These visuals are important because even with the scope, there may be additional details that the estimator can capture that will help them write more detailed estimates. With these visuals, an estimator can capture what’s been done or what still needs to be accomplished by field techs, providing compelling evidence for the adjuster. Just be sure to also label what rooms the visuals were captured in!

We’d recommend including videos in addition to photos in your reports. Why? Well, including video allows you to put all parties on the same page with accompanied expert narration from your PM or lead tech. Additionally, the entirety of the loss will be put into its full context with the layout of the property, an additional level of clarity that’s difficult to convey through merely photos.

If you do decide to elevate your field documentation with video, be sure to include the following elements:

  • The name of the videographer.
  • The date and address of the loss.
  • Source of loss and resulting damage.
  • Identify potential scope creep/unknowns.
  • Your plan for next steps.

While these visuals are important, we need to remind you that they shouldn’t be the only thing captured on site by your techs; visuals are there to complement your scope, not replace it! Think of them as a way to finetune the details in your scope. Estimators still need the basic information, such as square footage or on-site processes. If they have only photos to work off of, they’ll be making inaccurate assumptions that result in poor estimates.

Tip 3: Use digital scopes, not pen and paper 📱

So far in 2023, 86.11% of the world’s population owns a smartphone. With that in mind, it seems like a fairly obvious progression to move from pen and paper documentation to a digital property restoration software! Although estimators are still getting handwritten scopes, they can’t always be fully legible, which leads to inaccuracies as the estimator attempts to interpret what was written. Digital scopes are not only easier for estimators to work with, but are also designed for an optimized documentation process for techs in the field. Even a task as essential as capturing property dimensions and getting an accurate sketch can be improved drastically with technology. While hand sketches prove to be a tedious and time-consuming process, you can now scan entire properties in 5-10 minutes and receive accurate floor plans back in less than 6 hours, using nothing more than your smartphone!

While handwritten scopes prove to be cumbersome to work with (both in the field and back at the office), choosing the right property restoration software can help minimize the time and effort it takes to document in the field. Consider the Encircle app, designed to mimic the physical world that restoration contractors work in. Its simple and intuitive workflow simplifies the documentation process by following the same workflow that techs typically follow in the field already.

Once you’ve decided to make the shift from paper to digital, your team needs to also ensure that you’re implementing one or two property restoration softwares at one time. Otherwise, you’ll just be overwhelming your techs with too many property restoration softwares to juggle and learn. Things are already hectic enough in the field, cutting back on platforms can help cut back on this stress. Find one field documentation platform that works for your team, and stick with it for all jobs to ensure simplicity and consistency.

Tip 4: Value and trust your techs 🤝

When we think back to the relay race analogy, technicians are absolutely critical for the success of everybody else down the line. They are the ones on-site at the very beginning, capturing all of the relevant information that will be relied upon by everybody else. Without them, estimators won’t have the data that they need to provide for adjusters. Help your techs understand just how valuable both they and the information that they gather are, and be sympathetic to the pressures that they undergo in the field on the frontline.

It’s important that you also place trust in your technicians to prioritize the documentation as they see fit. First and foremost, they need to be looking after the customer when they arrive on-site, which may mean that the appropriate documentation is somewhat delayed. The timing of the documentation will vary on a job by job basis; sometimes, technicians are going to need to spend more time dealing with a homeowner, building trust by communicating with them and making sure that they understand the process. Some documentation is also more time sensitive. Train your techs to capture the required documentation thoroughly and quickly, but also trust them to know what’s best on-site and ensure they’re taking care of the customer.

See Encircle's list of third party estimators. Or, check out our on-demand webinar on writing better estimates, faster!


Get complete and consistent field documentation everytime.

Learn how Encircle can help you and your field teams ease the documentation burden.