It shouldn’t be a difficult decision to choose the right independent agent to handle your insurance needs. You want to build a trusting relationship over the long-term. It’s not like buying a car without looking around. You shouldn’t choose an independent agent without doing your research. What should you be looking for?
Learn the Difference Between Independent Agents & Other Insurance Agents
A small-business owner may have an independent agent who represents several insurance companies. Agents who represent large, national insurers are employees of the company and can only sell products from their company. Direct insurance companies sell directly to customers, usually online. Independent agents can match your needs with the best price and coverage. If an insurance company is not competitive in one year, they will be able to quote other companies. Independent agents are that way.
Ask for referrals
Referrals from friends, family, and colleagues are a great place to start. Ask around to find out what people think about their agent. Ask about the customer service and follow up. If they are friendly and knowledgeable, ask. Are their policies reviewed every year?
Decide if location is important to you
You may find it important that your agent has a local office. It is easy to visit the agent to get answers or to help with claims. This helps you build trust. Many independent agents are committed to their communities and actively participate as scout leaders, coaches, or civic leaders.
Visit Their Websites
Websites can be full of information. Learn about the agency’s history, staff bios, and customer testimonials. Check to see if they offer insurance information and the ability to obtain price quotes online or by telephone. Websites give you an insight into the personality and customer service of the agency.
An independent agent who is knowledgeable can give you the guidance you need in deciding on the right coverage and limits to protect you and your family. Independent agents should have their names next to their business cards. These letters represent professional designations such as Certified Insurance Counselor, Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter, Associate in Risk Management (ARM), and Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter. Independent agents need to continue their education in order to maintain their credentials.
Interview Independent Agents
Interview independent agents that you are interested in. It is important to get to know the person you will be working with for many years. Respect for their expertise and a feeling of their integrity are important.
Knowledge and trust are key
Because these qualities are a matter of time, it is difficult to know and trust. You can ask the agents you are interested in explaining the products they sell, and how they decide which products, coverages and limits you require. This will give you an idea of how the agent operates.
Ask a trusted friend to recommend a local agent
It’s a great way of finding an agent for insurance. Refer trusted family members and friends for recommendations. But make sure that your friends and family recommend the agent only for the right reasons.
Hungelmann states, “Ask for referrals and not based upon who sends birthday cards to clients or who is nicest,”
Chad Bitterlich is vice president at Navion Insurance Associates and says it’s better to hire an agent “close to home”.
He says that many people prefer to meet in person with their agent and that agents like to get to know their clients personally. There is no substitute for a local agent who is active in your community.
While some agents work for a single insurer, such as State Farm and Allstate, others are independent.
Bitterlich states that there are obvious advantages to having multiple insurance companies represented by your agent. They can also be more flexible in finding the right company for you. You may decide that it is better to keep your insurance with one company. You should look out for an agent who will work in your best interest and not just his or hers.
All potential insurance agents should be interviewed
Hungelmann suggests interviewing at least two to three agents. As you would with an accountant, lawyer or lawyer, ask them for details.
Hungelmann says, “Talk to them and see which ones offer you the best advice.”
He admits that such lengthy interviews can be tedious.
He says, “But once the expert is on your team you’re going be able to have someone who truly knows what they are doing.” As a result, your assets will be more protected. Nothing is worse than discovering that a claim wasn’t properly covered at the time it was filed.
Do not be afraid to ask questions about the agent’s past experience. Ask for a resume if necessary.
Bitterlich advises, “Ask for referrals.” “A good agent should have a lot of clients who can give enthusiastic recommendations.”
Bitterlich states that policyholders are required to disclose “all kinds of personal information” to agents because of the nature of their client-agent relationship. Trust and professionalism are essential.
He says, “If your agent seems only interested in selling you insurance, you should consider looking elsewhere.”
Locate an insurance specialist
Agents who are insurance experts should be sought out. Hungelmann states that such an expert can “guide you through how you fill out a claim correctly, so you get paid top-dollar for your claim.”
If you have a dispute over a claim payment, an experienced agent can help.
Good agents will also keep an eye out for changes in your insurance needs over time.
Bitterlich states that many people don’t realize their insurance needs can change year-to-year. It is crucial for agents to be aware of this potential.
Agents with advanced designations like Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters (CPCU), Certified Insurance Counselors (CIC), Chartered Life Underwriters (CLU), or Accredited Adviser for Insurance (AAI) are worth looking out.
Bitterlich agrees with the assertion that advanced certifications provide valuable insights into an agent.
Bitterlich says, “An advanced designation shows that your agent is committed to education and growing his or her knowledge.”
Bitterlich advises that you should not overlook other types of industry experience.
He says that agents who have more experience in the insurance business than sales, such as underwriting or claims, may be able to gain unique insights into the industry.
Verify the background of an insurance agent
Check that the agent’s license is current and meets all state requirements.
Bitterlich says, “Don’t hesitate to ask for a duplicate of your agent’s license,”
You should also check for complaints against agents.
Many state insurance offices offer a place on their website to view the license status of agents. Some will even let you check for complaints. It is important to verify that the agent you choose is legitimate.
Remember that the goal is to find a licensed agent with a track record that is positive and who puts your interests first.
You can trust that your relationship will last a lifetime with an independent agent. It is worth taking the time to find the right one.
Our job as your independent agent is to help you choose the right coverage, limits, and the most affordable premiums from the various insurance companies that we represent.