While you might think choosing an insurance agent or broker should be an easy task (pick the one that offers you the lowest price, right?), price shouldn’t be at the top of your list of priorities when choosing the best agent. While price is always a part of the decision, the lowest price can mean inferior coverage and you won’t know until you experience a loss.
Below is a listing of what we think everyone should review and understand when they begin the search process for an agent or broker
Direct Agents vs. Independent Brokers: Direct Agents usually work for insurance companies that hire their own sales people to write exclusively for their company. They are not usually able to offer policies not written by the company they work for and therefore might be more inclined to ‘steer’ you to their products only. Independent brokers work for their clients, not the insurance company. Since they represent multiple insurance companies, they can usually offer you more options and present multiple quotes side by side for you to compare.
Are you looking for one particular type of insurance, or multiple types of coverage? Some agents and brokers only work in one line of insurance such as personal auto, while others hold multiple insurance licenses in both life and health as well as property and casualty. Your decision might be based on whether you want to get a quick quote for only one line of insurance, or if you want someone you can use throughout your lifetime for advice and help in all insurance lines.
Technical Knowledge, Experience, and Industry Certifications: When researching an agent or broker, you should always ask them about their experience and knowledge in the insurance industry. See if they hold professional insurance designations that signify a higher level of experience and competence such as CLU, RHU, or CFP. Inquire about their years of experience and education, and ask about any information they might share on a regular basis via blogs or social media to inform clients and the general public.
Are they reputable and trustworthy, and do you like them? See if the agent or broker lists any testimonials on their website from satisfied customers. See if they participate in their local Chamber of Commerce or sponsor community events. Once you communicate with your broker, you should feel comfortable with their response time replying to your questions and inquiries as it is indicative of how prompt they will be when you have a problem or question down the road. It’s much easier to do business with people we like than people we don’t.
Check out their website: The broker or agent should have an up to date, informative, and professional website. If an agent has an outdated or inaccurate website and is not putting out current content and news, then what does that say about their ability to keep you informed and updated as a client?
While there are other things that might go into your decision such as office convenience, licenses in multiple states, etc , the items above should be the most important when looking for an insurance agent or broker who you will be trusting to guide you through your personal and business insurance needs. Taking the time researching these steps will allow you find a broker or agent who you can work with for many years to come in all lines of insurance.
James Eckardt is a Registered Health Underwriter, a licensed insurance agent and broker for over 26 years, and is currently the President of Peak Advisors Inc .