There are many qualified insurance agents and brokers who are available to you. And, unfortunately, there are also plenty of folks who have passed a licensing exam that really have no business practicing insurance.
But there are ways to tell if an agent is a good fit for your business. Here are specific characteristics to look for in the insurance agent you choose to protect your operations:
They should be certified.
When you are selecting the right commercial agent or broker for your company, be sure to look for a broker who has the required licenses to accommodate your company’s geographical operations. If you conduct business in more than one state, check to see that your insurance broker meets the licensure requirements to get you coverage in all states you do business in. Also, your state insurance department will be able to tell you if any complaints have been filed against the agent.
They should know your industry.
While it is critically important that your agent or broker understand the insurance industry, it is just as important that you choose an insurance professional who understands your industry. They should have a thorough understanding of the various types of risks and exposures that are unique to your business. I recommend not working with any agent/broker who insures less than 20 businesses who operate similarly to yours.
They should have advanced designation or training.
Your specific agent/broker will be designing the coverage that will protect your operations. Thus, it is critical they be qualified to do so. As previously mentioned, all insurance agents are required to be licensed by the state they reside in. However, the requirements to be licensed do not provide the advanced knowledge required to properly insure the various types and unique exposures to your operations.
Ask any broker/agent what type of advanced designation or training they have completed. I suggest working with insurance professionals who have obtained their Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC) designation. There are seven CIC institutes. Each institute is two days of coursework (16 hours total), followed by a two-hour essay exam. To become a designated CIC, the candidate must complete five of the seven courses and pass the examinations within five calendar years. CIC designees must also complete 16 hours of continuing education to update their CIC designations annually.
They should provide great customer service.
Begin looking for a broker/agent at least six months prior to needing the coverage in place. A good way to gauge if the agent or broker is a good fit for your operations and meets your expectations is by asking them for a quote before deciding to do business with them. Getting a quote can give you a real-life example of:
- How efficient they are (by how fast they can get you a quote)
- How interested they are in your particular business
- The kinds of companies they work with
- How thorough they are when explaining the coverages in the quote
- Why the premium price varies if more than one quote is provided
They should have experience in handling claims.
Unfortunately, the whole reason we have insurance is because sometimes we need to use it. When it comes to choosing a quality insurance agent or broker, claim-time is where the rubber meets the road. Your agent will be your liaison between you and your carrier. The better they are at settling claims, the better your experience will be as a customer.
A broker with a good track record in claims handling is essential. You can find out what the procedures are in their agency for servicing any claims. For example, do they have dedicated people handling claims? Or will your broker or account manager help you through the process? Your broker should know the different insurance companies they work with. They will know who is quick and efficient about settling claims and which companies are harder to work with. They can help you understand what to expect during the claims process before you even buy a policy. It’s a good idea to ask your broker about their personal claims experience with like-businesses and fully understand their agency’s claims processes, practices, and services.
Follow the guidelines above, do your homework, and, most importantly, give yourself plenty of time (three months minimum) to get through the process of finding your perfect insurance professional. The entire process should flow smoothly without an agent pressuring you into making an instant decision.
Dan Tharp is licensed in all states (except Alaska & Hawaii) and is the Vice President of Business Insurance Lines for Pearl Insurance. Dan has been assisting business owners in protecting their operations, customers, and employees for over 30 years. For questions regarding this blog post or any other insurance matter, he can be reached via phone at 800.447.4982 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.