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Selecting the right independent insurance agent to take care of your insurance needs should not be an "eeny, meeny, miny, moe" decision.  You are looking for a long-term relationship with someone you can trust.  You wouldn't buy a car without shopping around, and you shouldn't select an insurance agent without doing some research as well.  So what should you look for?

Know the Difference between Independent Agents and other Insurance Agents:
An independent agent is someone who represents a number of different insurance companies.  In contrast, agents who represent large, national insurance companies (also referred to as captive insurance companies) are employees of that company and only sell products from that particular company.  A direct insurance company sells directly to you without an agent, typically online.  An independent agent has the opportunity to best match price and coverage for your needs, and if an insurance company is competitive one year but not the next, your independent agent can quote with other carriers.  That is why they are called independent.

Ask for Referrals:
Referrals from family, friends and colleagues are a good place to start.  When you ask around, find out why they like their independent agent.  Ask about their customer service and follow-through, and if the agent is friendly and knowledgeable.  Is their policy reviewed at least annually?

Visit Their Websites:
Websites are full of information.  Read about the history of the agency, the staff's bios, and services provided.  See if their website provides insurance information and easy access to quotes either online or via telephone.  Websites can give you a feel for the personality of the agency, what they think is important, and the type of customer service they provide.

Interview the Independent Agents:
You should interview the independent agent you are considering.  Personality is important since you should like the agent you are going to work with, potentially for several years.  You should feel respect for their knowledge and get a sense of their integrity.

Knowledge and Trust are Key:
It's not so simple to determine knowledge and trust because these qualities are established over time.  But you can start by asking the independent agent you are considering to explain the coverages provided and how they determine which insurance programs you need.  This will give you a feel for how the agent does business.

Remember that your relationship with a good independent insurance agent is likely to last a long time, so it pays to take the time to choose the one who is right for you.

Posted 4:26 PM  View Comments

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