Independent insurance agents are becoming one of the best-kept secrets of the industry. While America is being bombarded with cute TV commercials, witty billboards and ear-catching radio announcements from direct writers promising to save us $400 on our current rates, consumers are forgetting about their advocates, the independent insurance agents. We are there to make sure that saving $400 does not jeopardize our clients’ insurance needs.
A direct writer solicits and services business directly with the public through its own employees, the mail or the Internet. On the other hand, an independent insurance agent is a licensed individual who typically represents multiple companies and acts as the middleman, negotiating insurance products and services on behalf of their clients with one or several of their available markets. Agents have local offices where our clients can speak with someone face-to-face about their insurance needs.
The independent insurance agent can be a consumer’s best friend when it comes to securing insurance for many reasons:
Independent agents do all the work. We are advocates who can check several markets for clients to ensure they have the best premiums and plan provisions based on their information and needs. Clients only have to give us their information once, and we take it from there. For consumers, it’s like having a personal shopper for insurance.
Independent insurance agents are a one-stop shop. By having access to multiple insurance markets, consumers can typically secure coverage for their home, auto, boat, life and whatever else they may need, all through one agency. Our clients have just one contact for all their insurance, even though it all may not be with the same insurance company.
Every policy is different. As if it’s not hard enough for consumers to know what insurance they need to buy (i.e. a dwelling fire versus a homeowners policy), they also have to understand the little nuances between each insurance company to make sure they are insured properly. We take that extra step for our clients.
Independent agents deliver outstanding service. When our clients have a coverage question or need to report a claim, they get to speak with a live person that they know and trust. We can quickly help our clients with a tricky coverage question or get them the assistance they need for a claim.
Insurance is complicated. By going online and filling out some information for a direct writer, how do consumers know they are getting the proper coverage they need? A great example is state minimum auto limits. While minimum limits are appealing because they are cheap and are all that are required, they typically are not enough. In South Carolina, our minimum limits are $25,000 per person, and $50,000 per accident for bodily injury and $25,000 for property damage. Think how quickly those limits would be exhausted in a head-on collision involving two cars where two people have to go to the hospital. This is where independent agents can help guide our clients to what is best for them.
While there are many positives to using an independent insurance agent, agents are human, and mistakes can happen. When this occurs, clients do have options such as contacting the Department of Insurance. It is not necessarily what a client would want to do, but at least they have options. If they secure the coverage themselves directly from an online website and are not adequately covered, they have only themselves to blame.
Also, not all independent agents are created equal. Each agency has access to different insurance carriers, some more than others. Consumers need to find an agent and agency they feel comfortable with and trust. Consumers should think of their insurance agent as a trusted advisor just like their accountant or lawyer. We want to be there for our clients and their needs!