Different kinds of insurance agents handle different kinds of products. Most agents sell either property and casualty insurance (auto and home) or they sell life and health products. More often than not, after a client buys insurance from an agent, they don’t hear from that agent again unless something goes terribly wrong -- but that’s not the ideal relationship a client and agent can have.
Unfortunately, the days when the neighborhood insurance agent sets up clients with all of their insurance needs is numbered. In fact, much of what people do to get insured nowadays is done online, without the guidance of an agent at all. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Insurance technology companies like SmartFinancial are connecting agents with consumers every day using the very same technology that is uprooting the industry. We encourage both agents and consumers to connect with one another to compare rates by visiting here. There are pluses to finding a business relationship, and we tell you what these are.
The following are some ways that an insurance agent should have a client’s back:
Gathering information: Even though you may have given some preliminary information before you connected with the agent, your agent will ask you the same questions and more. You can get multiple quotes from a service like the one offered here, and after you’ve expressed interest in a rate, you’ll get connected with the agent offering it. Just think about how inefficient the process used to be, before the dawn of the Internet, when information went back and forth so slowly and you had to compare rates while waiting on hold -- and for each agent, not multiple agents at the same time! If your agent is an independent agent, (s)he can be the window to a whole world of insurance products. In many ways, the independent agent is the most neutral and honest agent out there. However, captive agents, who only work for one insurer, have very in-depth knowledge about the products they handle and can really teach you a thing or two about how to really utilize them to their fullest. If you’re paired up with either of these types of agents, it’s because they have offered you an affordable rate for what you need, so be open to both types of insurance professionals.
Explaining the process: A good agent does this for the client so they feel like they know what’s happening every step of the way. For example, a client needs to get a physical examination to qualify for life insurance and sometimes a client needs to show a diploma as proof of education level for auto insurance. The agent needs to let the client know this from the beginning, not at the moment of purchase.
Review of quote: Whether an agent is independent and is pulling several quotes for you or if you submitted information via Smartfinancial.com and are replying to a quote that suits you, a good agent will go over the pricing as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each type of coverage. You should at this point go over the deductibles (the higher these are, the lower the monthly premium), copays, exclusions, add-ons, floaters and whatever else you’ve selected.
Review of policy: You’d be surprised by how many people cannot make sense of the declarations page of their policy jacket. It’s important to go over each section so the client is familiar with this important document which has all the important information, including account number and coverages.
Check ins: Not communicating enough with clients will mean a short-term relationship. A good agent will be checking in with a client more than once a year around renewal time. If there is no relationship formed, the client will bounce as soon as (s)he gets an offer for as little as $40 off an annual rate. It’ll take much more time to find a new client than to nurture an existing one so don’t get lazy. At the very least there should be a call or meeting to touch base once a year, however, it’s important that clients are told to call in immediately with certain life changes that could affect their coverage. For instance, if there is a marriage or a birth, it will not only change the status of a health insurance policy, but it may indicate a drop in rates for auto. You can see how forming a friendly relationship with one another can help with timelier communication.
Quarterly newsletters: A good agent doesn’t necessarily have the time to call all existing clients four or five times a year. Plus, not many clients want to be called so often, especially not to be up-sold or cross-sold, unless it’s an insurance product they need. Most agents are not mind readers so a less intrusive approach is to use newsletters, which can briefly touch upon available products without being pushy and without taking up a client’s precious time if they do not need them. Newsletters are a great place to communicate changes, new services, endorsements and anything else clients should know about.
Emails: Emails are another alternative to individual calls. An agent can send email blasts of important policy announcements. Emails can also be used to cross-sell and upsell if used properly. Mentioning discounts and going over eligibility for them in these emails may be helpful too. A word of caution: no one wants to their inboxes filled with lots of pointless emails. Less is more when it comes to written communications. A good agent never sends more than a handful of emails a month.
Calling the DMV: While these calls are definitely not required of an insurance agent, some insurance agents are known to go out of their way, or at least have an assistant make the call on behalf of a frazzled client. Usually these calls are reserved for emergencies, when the insured needs to provide proof that they are insured.
Coordinating with lenders and mortgage companies: Yes, sometimes a verification from an agent is needed. Also, agents often set up loss payee information for these companies as well.
After an accident: It’s important for an agent to communicate that the client must contact them in the event of an accident. An agent should be available at all hours to take such a call. A good agent will know exactly how to guide the client by asking the right questions and reviewing the policy on the car involved in the accident. If a client is especially close with an agent, the agent will file the claim on their behalf entirely (after speaking with each other first).
Assisting with a claim: Not all claims are processed smoothly. Having an agent on their side is sometimes the best thing clients can ask for. If it’s healthcare, a great agent can be an invaluable ally if a claim is being rejected unfairly.
Making changes: If a teen is going to be regularly using the family car or a client opens a new business, a good insurance agent is on top of it. Whether it’s to have the agent make changes to an account, like adding on a driver or changing an address, it’s vital for the client to be in regular communication with this trusted adviser. The more information revealed the better.
Advice on personal finance: If it’s not the agent herself giving the client the full range of financial services available (annuities, IRA information and taxes, etcetera), she’s connecting her clients with the right financial planners, accounted and lawyers. People look to their agents as sources of help when it comes to money -- at least they do if agents do their jobs right. By making themselves valuable and accessible, insurance agents with the right know-how can become indispensable personal finance professionals. When an agent finds a client who is willing to allow them to handle all their insurance needs, chances are that the independent agent will find a carrier who will allow them to customize plans that satisfy all the client’s needs.