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What Makes a Good Agent?

When it comes to financial security and insurance protection, most people want a long-term relationship with a trusted adviser they can turn to many years into the future.

In fact, a survey by the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA) found that three out of four insurance consumers use an agent when purchasing personal insurance. More than half the respondents over age 55 have purchased insurance from the same agent for at least 20 years.

More than 60 percent say they value the opportunity to discuss insurance with a real person.

If you’re like most people, you want to develop a long-term relationship with an agent, too. So, how do you make sure the agent is professional and reputable?

Here’s what to look for:

  • Independence. Independent agents represent an average of eight different companies-not just one. They can evaluate and compare the products of several insurance companies to find the right combination of coverage and value.
  • Licensing by the state.
  • Number and names of companies the agent represents.
  • Number of years the agent and agency have been in business.
  • The agent’s professional designations. For example, CPCU (Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter) and CLU (Chartered Life Underwriter) are among the industry’s most rigorous and prestigious designations.
  • Areas of specialization. Some agents and agencies have experience in specialized products, such as insurance for a farm, a classic car, or a home business.
  • Recommendations and referrals. How did you hear about the agent and the agency? Did someone you trust refer you? Ask the person for specific details about the experience.
  • Full-service capability. Is this a full-service agency for auto, home, health, and disability products?
  • Service representatives. Ask who will handle your account for routine updates and transactions.
  • Hours. Emergency numbers. Claims service. Ask if you can contact the agency after- hours for claims or other emergency needs.
  • Claims help. Ask if the agent plays a role in handling and tracking claims. Will the agent help resolve disputes that might arise with an insurance company, for example?
  • Policy review. Does the agency occasionally review and update policies to make sure your insurance is keeping pace with changes in your situation?
  • Community involvement. Does your agent participate in any local organizations, boards, volunteer activities, or other civic endeavors?
  • Industry associations. Does your agent participate in any local, state, or national trade associations? These activities often signify professionalism and a commitment to continuing education in the insurance field.

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