Purchasing an insurance policy is about more than dollars and cents. It’s about protecting all that you value, which is why most insurance purchasers want an expert to guide them through the policy review and decision-making process to ensure they are making the right decisions for optimal protection. What is essential in selecting an insurance agent is choosing a partner with expertise and knowledge in your local marketplace as well as the types of policies you are considering. Ideally, just like when choosing a physician, mechanic, or hair stylist, you should strive to find an insurance agent partner with whom you can build a trusted, long-term relationship. An agent who knows you and what you value, can be a valuable partner to you in return. Follow these ten steps for identifying an insurance agent you can trust long term:
- Consider an independent agent. Since independent agents represent several different companies, they are able to evaluate options and provide recommendations objectively.
- Review credentials. Make sure that any agent you work with is licensed to sell the coverage you are seeking in the state in which you reside.
- Investigate complaints. Check the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ (NAIS) Consumer Information Source (CIS), call your state insurance department, or contact the Better Business Bureau (BBB). If several complaints have been filed against an agent you are considering, you may want to expand your search options until you find an agent whose client history makes you feel more comfortable.
- Review professional designations. If an agent has earned a designation such as CPCU (Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter) or CLU (Chartered Life Underwriter), you can be confident that he/she has earned a prestigious designation, which should speak to his/her expertise. Similarly, if the agent is an active participant in local and/or national insurance organizations, it is likely an indication of his/her long-term commitment to the industry and high knowledge base.
- Experience matters. Ask how long the agent has been in the business and serving your market. As is true of other service experts, more experience means more knowledge, which will help you get the best policy.
- If you need specialized coverage, seek a specializing agent. Farm insurance? Classic cars insurance? Pet insurance? Find an agent with proven experience with these policies.
- Ask to speak with previous clients. A reputable agent should be able to provide current and/or previous client references for you to contact. Ask the references about their experiences and satisfaction with the agent before you commit to a policy purchase.
- Get to know the team: Your agent may assist you with the initial policy purchase and renewals, but whom will you contact throughout the year for general questions and transactions? Make sure you are comfortable and familiar with all of the members of your service team.
- Emergency contact details. Know whom to contact in case of an emergency or after hours. Emergencies don’t usually occur between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
- Policy renewal process. Renewals are just as important as initial policy decisions. Make sure your agent will meet with you annually to review changes to your coverage needs, present multiple renewal options, and negotiate for the best renewal rates possible.
After you’ve done your research and identified an insurance agent who has the experience, qualifications, and knowledge to help you choose the policy you need, you’ll be well positioned to begin a long-term partnership with an agent you can rely on.