What should you expect from your insurance agent?

Most people don’t spend much time choosing an insurance agent. They ask around, see an ad, or meet one at a community event. Not much in the way of due diligence, you might say. It’s as if it doesn’t make a difference which one you choose—they’re all about the same.

Not so. As with plumbers and painters, doctors and dentists, and lawyers and accountants, insurance agents are not all the same. Here are some of the qualities to look for in an insurance agent:

  • You want an insurance expert, not just a salesperson. All insurance agents are licensed, but that doesn’t make them insurance experts. Insurance is highly technical, and a high level of expertise comes from having underwriting experience. Earned designations, such as Certified Insurance Counselor and Certified Professional Insurance Agent, are indications of specialized competence.
  • You want your agent to be your advocate, someone who knows you and stands between you and your insurance company to represent you if there’s a claim issue. Even though the cost of insurance is the same whether you buy it online or through an agent, you get the agent’s services at no extra cost
  • You want an agent to comparison shop your account. This takes an agent’s time, but it’s in your best interest to make sure you’ll get the proper coverage at the most competitive price.
  • You want your agent on-site, not an 800 number when you have a loss. Sure, the insurance company sends out an adjuster (who works for the insurance company), but you want your agent there to represent you and your interests.
  • You want your agent to have the right markets. If an agent represents only one or two insurance companies, you can be at a competitive disadvantage. Companies have a “sweet spot” where they want more business. Just the opposite is also true.
  • You want an agent with strong client service support. You want your questions answered thoroughly and quickly. This takes an experienced staff that understands customer expectations, and who recognizes you when you contact them.
  • You want an agent who invests time and effort in client relationships. When you better understand insurance and how to avoid unnecessary losses, your agent is helping you take charge of your insurance and controlling the cost.

What should you expect from your insurance agent? The answer should be obvious: you should expect a lot.

Joseph E. Rueter, CIC, CPIA is President of Rueter Insurance Agency, Inc. of Philadelphia. A Temple University graduate, he has risk management expertise and specializes in construction, food wholesaling, restaurants, nonprofits, and transportation. You can contact him at joerueter@rueterinsurance.com, 215-637-8223.