7 Habits of Highly Effective Desk Claims Adjusters – Adjust U

by Gene Strother, President of Adjust U

Stark differences exist between field adjusting and desk adjusting. To name a few:

The differences in the two roles make for differing challenges and opportunities. It is often that a person is well suited to one or the other and rare is the individual who excels at both.

In my own journey, I was a field adjuster for six years before I got my first taste of desk adjusting. When I did go to the desk, I gained valuable knowledge and insight, things I wish I had known when first in the field. Being a desk adjuster made me a better field adjuster when I left the desk to return to the field. Just so, having been in the field and gained hands-on experience there made me a more empathetic and insightful desk adjuster.

Success as a desk adjuster requires a specific skillset and mindset. Traits like durability, endurance, patience, and empathy are critical to the job. An analytical mind, a good eye for detail, an understanding of estimating and estimating software, an appreciation for the human condition, and strong communication skills, both spoken and written, are essential, as well.

We visited with some of our most successful desk adjusters, each of whom is currently deployed, to share with us the most important habits of the highly effective desk adjuster. What follows is a list of the seven habits of the highly effective desk adjuster as identified by these remarkable adjusters.


Speak slowly, pronounce all the syllables in words spoken, and explain any acronyms used in your explaining the settlement to the insured.
Imagine yourself in your first day of medical school or first flight Lesson.
Perhaps some of the words would seem to be a foreign language.

Patrick Murphy, desk adjuster

You can see Patrick’s attention to detail in communication in the fact that he pays attention to basic communication elements and does not assume the other person knows the lingo. Tossing around acronyms or industry insider verbiage may make you feel smart but it does not meet the basic requirements of effective communication. The point of speaking is to be heard and understood.

Decades ago, a college professor told a class of aspiring public communicators to “put the cookies on the bottom shelf so everyone can reach them.”

I was in that class and I have thought about that simple instruction every time I have ever written or delivered a speech.

Empathy for the insured and good listening skills; learn how to deescalate and reassure the insured that you are working in good faith for their covered damages.

Laura F, desk adjuster

Yes, Laura! Thank you.

Please hear me here. If you are a person who lacks empathy, if you find it difficult to identify with the fears, struggles, misgivings, and insecurities of others, find another line of work. Adjusting is not for you.

John Maxwell said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

I cannot tell you how many smart desk adjusters who knew the nuts and bolts of this business have been dismissed from an assignment for lack of empathy, for poor people skills that led to unnecessary turmoil. I cannot tell you how many but it is more than a few.


Set up folders in your Outlook to store management directives, contacts (PAs, contractors, vendors, etc), tracker completions, etc.
Also, create folders on your computer to store letters, coverage issues, templates, carrier directives, etc

Al S, desk adjuster

The time spent getting yourself organized in the setup phase will save you hours of hunting and pecking and floundering about, thus making you more efficient, able to handle a larger claim volume, and, you guessed it, more indispensable. Want to ride the storm longer? Get organized. Manage your time wisely. Become more than efficient; become proficient.


I think it’s simple/basic to be successful. Be at work on time every scheduled day so as not to fall behind on the work, and keep up with the updated directives of the carrier.

Ramona G

Thank you, Ramona!

Hey, you have to show up before you can show out. In adjusting, the first ability is availability and the second is reliability. If you are not available, you are not deployable. That is not always on you. Maybe you have already accepted another deployment or maybe life circumstances (family, health, etc.) are such that you cannot make the commitment. But reliability is always on you. Regardless of your level of experience or expertise, you can always be reliable. Be the one others can count on to be where you are supposed to be and do what you are supposed to do and you will out-deploy and outlast even more seasoned adjusters who may be less focused and less reliable. Start there and then start collecting the tools for success to enhance your value.

Time Management

Make a claims-related daily goal for yourself

Jennifer H, desk adjuster

People talk about saving time but that is literally impossible to do. You can save money. You can save the whales, or use your resources to try. You cannot save time. You cannot squirrel it away for a rainy day or let it stack up to use it later. You can only decide how you will use it. You can waste it. You can invest it. You can make the most or the least of it. But the clock will continue to tick it away.

Get up and move from your desk.  Sitting at your desk for 3 or 4 hours straight is not good for you mentally or physically.  Get up, move around, get water, etc.  It will increase your focus and help in your health.

Al S, desk adjuster

Sometimes, the best use of your time is a walk around the block or drinking a bottle of water. Clearing your mind, or attending to your general health is not a waste of time. In the long run, it may buy you more time by adding days or years to your life.

Time management is essential to the success of the desk adjuster. If you will work when you are working and rest when you’re resting, you will find yourself working less and resting more, and being more productive.


The willingness to learn and adjust to changing procedures because claims handling will continue to evolve.

Toan T, DA manager

“This is the way we did it for (insert carrier name here).”

That is not going to fly. Every deployment, every carrier, and every storm has its own demands and protocols. You sometimes may feel like a contortionist but if you commit to giving the client what the client demands, you will find more success and personal contentment.

Ask if you don’t know. Adjusters juggle a lot of information, and policyies/carriers are constantly changing how we as adjusters make our decisions.

Ramona G, desk adjuster

I have an acquaintance who played for six years in the NFL. He was not quite a fullback and not quite a tight end. He was a hybrid and he made himself so versatile that he could play either position or play a combination of the two positions, which NFL teams call the “H” back. In baseball, those who have mastered the art of switch-hitting or developed the ability to play multiple positions (utility infielders, for example) often carve out for themselves significant roles.

I like to think of the flexible desk adjuster the same way I do Palm trees in hurricanes. Have you ever seen those things bend in the wind until their tops are touching the ground? They bend and bend and never break. Then, when the storm is done, they straighten up and stand tall again.

Flexibility, as long as it does not violate good conscience, is not a sign of weakness or a lack of self-guiding principles. It is simply being strong enough to bend.

Attention to Detail

Thoroughly review policy for RCV vs ACV,  exclusions, policy limits, additional coverage, endorsements, or no coverage. Verify the DOL and correct peril. Document! Document! Document! Make sure all communications via email, phone, etc. is follow up with a detailed file note.

Phyllis H

Phyllis said a mouthful. In her piece of invaluable advice, you see a hint of the complexities of a policy and the duties of a desk adjuster. Desk adjusters are Thoroughbreds – they have to be thorough in every detail, and that has to be bred in them.

Review entire claim file.  When assigned a claim (especially a supplement) or closing a claim, make sure to review the entire claim file so you do not miss any pertinent documents that still may be pending.

Daniel N

Details, details, details. The Devil may be in them but if you miss them, Hell may be unleashed.

Stay up on your Xactimate skills and letter writing skills. Microsoft Word and Excel are great tools to have in your tool belt.

John S, desk adjuster

Sharpen that ax and then chop wood.

Customer Service/Empathy

Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind to EVERYONE you talk to or meet.
Be honest with the insured. Don’t make empty promises or suggest things just to appease them

Bryan S

Why are good customer service and empathy such vital factors? For the very reason Bryan mentioned: you do not know what the other person is dealing with, what battles they are fighting. We may not all possess great wisdom or insight but we are each capable of kindness.

This a pretty tough call but I believe customer service should come as your most important habit. And, by habit, I mean something that you practice each day with a goal of constant improvement. If an insured feels comfortable with you and likes you as a person, adjusting the claim will fall into place

Jacob C


I could not think of a better list of habits to ensure the good success of a desk adjuster than the list these adjusters came up with. I want to thank each desk adjuster and each field adjuster who contributed to this article and to its companion article, 7 Habits of the Highly Effective Field Adjuster. I consider these adjusters the coauthors of these articles and give them full credit for the habits they have formed and now share with you.

Here’s to your success.

Contact us today to get on the Mid-America roster.

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