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Checklist: How to Choose an Insurance Agent for Your Business

May 29, 2024 • Missouri Employers Mutual

Insurance is sometimes seen as a commodity – however, excellent insurance partners are anything but. Choosing the right agent can have a big impact on your bottom line.

Even if they secure the same policies, different agents offer different value to their clients. For this reason, it’s essential to think about what’s most important to your business.

What are you hoping to get out of your relationship with your agent? Do they need specialized knowledge of your industry? Is price your top concern, or are you looking to maximize your ROI over time?

Let’s dig into these questions and more as you set out to make an informed decision.

Why you need an insurance agent

Your agent doesn’t just sell you an insurance policy. They help you protect the business you worked hard to build. A trusted agent helps you navigate complex insurance options and supports you during critical moments.

There are many benefits to this peace of mind, but here are a few:

  • Identify coverage gaps. If your business has evolved, your insurance policies might no longer fit your exposures. A good agent can spot these gaps and help make sure you’re covered.
  • Tailor coverage to your business. With a generic policy, you might be paying for coverage you don’t need. Your agent can help you get what you need at a competitive price.
  • Count on claims support. Some businesses go years without filing a claim. But when an incident happens, it can be stressful to feel like you’re on your own. An agent partners with your carrier to help you manage the claim.

The bottom line is: Choosing an insurance professional who’s genuinely on your side provides a significant ROI for your business.

Types of insurance agents

Some business owners are surprised to learn that there are different types of agents serving the insurance industry. Here are the main distinctions you’ll run into during your search:

  • Commercial vs. personal. Commercial insurance agents focus on coverage for business, while personal agents handle auto, home, and other policies for individuals. Some agents write both.
  • Captive vs. independent. Captive agents only sell policies from the insurance carrier they work for. You might also hear these carriers referred to as “direct writers,” meaning they sell policies directly to customers. In contrast, independent insurance agencies work with a variety of carriers. Independent agents may also be called “insurance brokers.”

Checklist: 9 tips for finding the right agent

The benefits of working with an agent are clear – now, how do you choose the best one for your business? Here are nine factors to consider when evaluating agents.

☑️ Local

We recommend working with an agency that has offices or agents located near your business. Local agents understand your location-specific risks and your state’s insurance regulations.

☑️ Independent

An independent agent works with multiple insurance companies to tailor a plan to your business’s unique needs. You can be confident that they’ve reviewed all your options and are presenting the best solutions for you.

☑️ Reputation

An agent’s reputation says a lot about them. At a minimum, verify an agent’s licenses and disciplinary action history in your state’s Insurance Department database (here’s Missouri’s).

Beyond that, consider the agent’s experience level and tenure. Read online reviews of the agency. You can even ask for references from businesses like yours. A little due diligence up front goes a long way when it comes to evaluating reputation.

☑️ Industry specialization

You might want to consider an agent who specializes in your industry. A specialized agent understands risks, claims, and compliance in your sector. An agency that focuses in your industry may also have established relationships with carriers that offer specialized types of coverage.

☑️ Carrier partnerships

An independent insurance agent can work with almost any carrier, but that doesn’t mean they have long-term relationships with every carrier. Ask which carriers an agent is appointed with. In their response, look for highly-rated carriers. There are several rating agencies in the U.S., so be sure to understand the context for a given carrier’s rating.

☑️ Types of policies and coverage options

During initial conversations with your agent, ask about any unique coverages or endorsements your business needs. You might already know about these, or they might surface during the agent’s risk assessment. Ensure the agent can write all the policies you need.

In addition, ask how often the agent will conduct a risk review to identify coverage gaps. An annual review is typical. If your business is very stable, every few years may be sufficient.

☑️ Customer service

A high-value agent is about more than finding the right coverage. The level of customer service they provide can make or break your experience. Here are a few questions to ask:

  • How quickly do you respond to emails and phone calls?
  • Do you have after-hours support for urgent issues?
  • Will I have one point of contact or several?
  • What technology do you use to enhance the customer experience? A portal, app, texting, other digital tools?

Finally, take note of the agent’s communication style and professionalism. Do they match your preferences?

☑️ Risk management services

Risk management goes beyond insurance. The best agents partner with their clients to proactively reduce risk. Look for an agent who offers value-added services like exposure analysis, OSHA compliance consulting, and safety education.

☑️ Claims support

If an incident happens, you want a confident and proactive agent on your side. During your search for an agent, understand the claim reporting and management process. Is there after-hours support? How will you get updates on the claims process?

Protecting your future with the right insurance agent

Choosing the right agent for your business doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Start by looking at the checklist above and identifying which characteristics are most important to you. An agent who’s a great fit will help you identify your top risks, reduce unnecessary costs, resolve claims smoothly, and protect your business’s future.

Want a shortcut to identifying the best agencies in your area? Pop your zip code into our Find an Agent tool and look for our Signature Partner icon.

Date
May 29, 2024
Author
Missouri Employers Mutual
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