7 Steps to Picking Your Independent Insurance Agent:
Know the Difference between Independent Agents and other Insurance Agents. An independent agent may be a small-business owner who represents a number of different insurance companies. In contrast, agents who represent large, national insurance companies are employees of their company and only sell products from that company. A direct insurance company sells directly to you without an agent, typically online. An independent agent has the opportunity to best match price and coverage for your needs, and if an insurance company is competitive one year but not the next, your independent agent can quote other carriers. That is why they are called independent.
Ask for Referrals. Referrals from family, friends and colleagues are a good place to start. When you ask around, find out why they like their independent agent. Ask about their customer service and follow- through, if the agent is friendly and knowledgeable. Is their policy reviewed annually?
Decide If Location Is Important to You. It may be important for you that your independent agent has offices in your community. You have the convenience of being able to stop by to ask questions or help with a claim and develop a trust relationship. Many independent agents are deeply committed to their community and are actively involved as coaches, scout leaders or civic leaders.
Visit Their Websites. Websites are full of information. Read about the history of the agency, the staff’s bios, their customer testimonials. See if their website provides insurance information and easy access to price quotes, either online or via telephone. Websites can give you a feel for the personality of the agency, what they think is important, and the type of customer service they provide.
Look for Credentials. A knowledgeable independent agent can provide the advice you need when deciding what coverage and limits you need to protect your family and you. Look for independent agents who have letters next their name on their business card. These represent professional designations, such as Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC), Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter (CPCU), Associate in Risk Management (ARM). To maintain these credentials, independent agents must take continuing education classes.
Interview the Independent Agents. You should interview the independent agents you are considering. Personality is important since you should like the agent you are going to work with, potentially for several years. You should feel respect for their knowledge and get a sense about their integrity.
Knowledge and Trust Are Key. It is not so simple to determine knowledge and trust because these qualities are established over time. But you can start by asking the independent agents you are considering to explain the products they sell and how they determine which products, coverage and limits you need. This will give you a good feel for how the agent does business.