Insurance agents are responsible for fitting their clients into suitable auto, health, homeowners, renters and/or life insurance policies. There are many insurance providers, and they are not all the same. Therefore, it is important that the agent you choose be well-versed in policy differences from provider to provider, informed of the latest industry news and trends, concerned with your personal insurance needs and capable of explaining your options in a way you can understand.
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Start with word of mouth. Put out the call on Facebook or other social media outlets that you are looking for some good referrals. A friend may recommend an agent they have dealt with. Be sure to ask your friend if the agent was responsive,whether or not they were licensed and if the agent address their needs quickly and seriously?
Ask if the person making the referral compared policy quotes from various agents, researched the type of insurance they were looking to get and whether they researched the company and agent.
This will give you a sense of whether the agent they are referring has already been screened.
You’ll still want to thoroughly vet any potential providers.
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Pay attention to complaints. Listen to friends who have dealt with an agent you are considering. If it didn’t go well for them, chances are your experience with the agent or company won’t either. Also, look for online testimonials and steer clear of the agents with numerous complaints.
Finding out that a company doesn’t process a claim in a timely fashion will help you avoid that company and save you a great deal of headaches.
The experience of others, when dealing with an agent or company you are considering, may also help you keep looking until you find a company that suits your needs.
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Consider the type of insurance you need and ask related professionals. For example, if you need homeowners insurance, you may ask a title company for recommendations. If you need health insurance, you may want to ask your trusted healthcare provider.
Keep in mind that recommendations from related professionals may be a way for the professional to get a kick-back, so be sure to check out the agent or company.
The agents they recommend may have higher premiums. It is best to compare companies and get multiple quotes.
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Try an independent insurance agent. An independent insurance agent is not tied to one specific insurance company. They likely have several companies for whom they can provide quotes. Therefore they can help you compare rates and coverage information.
If you feel comfortable that an agent will be forthright, then ask for multiple referrals.
You’ll need to be sure that the agent is making referrals to companies that offer policies with similar coverage and deductibles.
Ask questions like why they chose a particular agency and why they think that coverage is best for your situation.
With an Independent Agent, you’ll need to check the agent’s credibility and on the credibility of the companies for which they provide quotes before enrolling in a new policy.
Do this through online research, word of mouth, and interviewing the agent.
Checking Out the Agents
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Compile a list of potential agents. After you have done your research, it is time to make a list of agents with whom you may be interested in working. This will help you stay focused when making phone calls and setting up appointments.
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Research those agents who are on the list you compiled. Research them online. You can check out the Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) Type this in the search bar and then search for the site that is specific to your state.The website will most likely have the information you need to answer the questions you have about the insurance policy and perspective companies.
Check their rankings on business rating directories.
See if they offer products that you need.
Stay away from the ones that work with providers that you don’t like. If they do, take them off your list.
The key is to ensure you get the coverage you need at the best price from a reputable company.
Make sure the agent deals with your specific issue.
A truly helpful agent will give personalized advice.
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Search for complaints against a specific company. One source is the Consumer Information Source page on the National Association of Insurance Commissioners website. The link is: http://doi.wyo.gov/consumers/choosing-an-insurance-company/consumer-information-source. This should provide more in-depth information about complaints or issues than a more generic search of a company.
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Research agents through your government’s insurance regulatory agency. Make sure the agents you are considering are licensed to practice in your locality. Additionally, find out what professional designations your prospective agents hold. A good insurance agent should belong to a number of professional boards and should hold professional accreditations.
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Choose a good commercial insurance policy. Commercial insurance addresses the needs of a business. Such needs include theft, injury, disasters and so on. You should know the difference between commercial and personal insurance.
Personal insurance will be in an individual’s name.
Commercial insurance will be under a number of entities like sole proprietor, LLC, partnership, corporation.
Personal insurance insures such things as homes.
Commercial insurance insures offices, storefronts or other locations where business is conducted.
Personal lines consider premises concerns while the concerns of commercial insurance are much broader.
Meeting the Agents
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Schedule interviews. After you narrow your potential agent list down to the most promising prospects, call each agent to schedule a face-to-face meeting to discuss your insurance needs. Information you should find out includes the specific services they offer, whether their premiums are lower than other popular agencies and why they are placing you with a particular agency. A good insurance agent should possess the following characteristics: 
Knowledge. Your chosen agent should have a working knowledge of the variety of products that may be suited to your needs. If an agent doesn’t have an immediate or definitive answer, that agent should be willing and able to use appropriate resources to get you an answer.
Effective communication. Insurance agents should not use a lot of industry jargon in their product and coverage explanations. You want to choose an agent who explains things on a level you can comfortably understand.
Questions. In addition to answering your questions, a good insurance agent should ask you a multitude of questions in order to identify the product offerings that best suit your needs.
Experience. Not only should your agent be experienced, but the agency should also have an established and proven history. Your agent of choice should also be experienced and comfortable working with your particular socio-economic and age sector, as these factors play a large part in determining insurance needs.
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Interview potential agents. It is important that you feel comfortable with your agent. They should not only be knowledgeable about their products, they should also have outstanding credentials. Look for their certificate on the wall. The letters behind their name represent the credentials they have earned from insurance organizations.
Make sure to ask what each group of letters represents and how and where they earned them.
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Find an agent who deals with your specific concerns. There is nothing more reassuring than knowing that a professional you are dealing with has years of experience dealing with the very issue for which you sought them out.
It is still a good idea to follow all the steps mentioned to make sure they are reputable.
However, the number of years of experience the agent has working with your needs, the more knowledgeable they will be.
They will also be able to more thoroughly answer your questions and put you at ease.
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Look for an agent who gives personalized advice. Another thing that puts people at ease is advice that is tailored to their individual needs. When you are interviewing insurance agents, make sure the agent can address the things that are important to you.
This makes you feel as if the agent is looking out for your best interest.
It also lets you know that the agent is knowledgeable about the issue they are addressing.
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Insurance agents are unique – just like the customers they serve. So when shopping for an agent, remember that a good insurance agent should do more than just sell you a policy.
You may focus on policy price when choosing an agent, but that can be a mistake, says Jack Hungelmann, veteran agent/risk manager and author of «Insurance for Dummies.»
«The biggest thing to be wary of is someone who doesn’t have a lot of expertise,» Hungelmann says.
Here are four tips for finding the right agent.
1. Ask someone you trust to suggest a local agent
Word of mouth can be a great way to find an insurance agent. Ask trusted friends and family members for referrals. However, make sure your pals recommend the agent for the right reasons.
«Ask for referrals not based on who is sending birthday cards to their clients or who is the nicest guy or gal,» Hungelmann says.
Chad Bitterlich, vice president of Navion Insurance Associates, says it’s best to hire an agent located «close to home.»
«Many people prefer to have in-person appointments with their agent, and most agents prefer to know their clients personally,» he says. «There is really no substitute to having a local agent who is an active member of your community.»
Some agents represent a single insurer – such as State Farm or Allstate – while others work independently.
«There are obvious benefits if your agent represents multiple insurance companies and has the flexibility to find the right company for your particular needs,» Bitterlich says. However, you may feel it is more important to have your insurance consolidated with one company. Either way, look for an insurance agent that has your best interests in mind, not his or her commissions.
2. Interview all prospective insurance agents
Hungelmann says it’s best to interview two or three agents. Ask them about specifics, as you would with an accountant or lawyer.
«Talk to them about your situation and see which ones give you the best advice,» says Hungelmann.
He acknowledges such extensive interviewing can be a bit tedious.
«But once you get the expert on your team, you’re going to have someone who really knows what they’re doing,» he says. «Your assets will be better protected as a result. There’s nothing worse than finding that a claim isn’t covered properly at the time of the claim.»
Don’t be afraid to speak up and to ask about an agent’s experience. If necessary, ask to see a resume.
«Ask for references,» says Bitterlich. «A good agent should have several clients to provide enthusiastic recommendations.»
The very nature of the agent-client relationship involves policyholders divulging «all sorts of personal information» to their agent, Bitterlich says. So, trust and professionalism are important.
«If you feel that your agent is simply interested in selling you a policy, you should look elsewhere,» he says.
3. Find an insurance expert
Look for agents who are true insurance experts. Such an expert «can guide you through how to fill out a claim properly, so you get paid top dollar for your claim,» Hungelmann says.
An experienced agent will also be able to make your case to the claims department if you get into a dispute about a claims payment.
A good agent also will keep an eye on how your insurance requirements may shift over the years.
«Many people don’t realize that their insurance needs may change from year to year, and it is important for your agent to communicate the potential for these changes,» Bitterlich says.
Look for agents with advanced designations such as Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU), Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC), Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) or Accredited Adviser in Insurance (AAI).
Bitterlich agrees that advanced certifications reveal important insights about an agent.
«An advanced designation demonstrates that your agent has a commitment to education and increasing his or her knowledge,» says Bitterlich.
Do not discount other types of industry experience, Bitterlich says.
«Agents who have additional experience in the insurance industry outside of sales — in underwriting or claims, for example — may have unique insight into the insurance industry,» he says.
4. Check an insurance agent’s background
Make sure an agent’s licensing is up to date and meets state requirements.
«You should not hesitate to ask for a copy of your agent’s license, especially if there is no easy or convenient way to independently verify his/her license status,» says Bitterlich.
Also, check for any complaints against an agent.
Most state insurance offices have an area on its website where you can check the license status of your agent, and some will also allow you to check if there are any complaints. You always want to make certain that your choice of an agent is legit.
Remember, the goal is to find an agent who is properly licensed, has a good track record and puts your interests first.
Are you a consumer looking for a licensed insurance producer, motor vehicle physical damage appraiser, public adjuster, public adjuster solicitor or viatical settlement broker? Or, are you a licensee or insurer wishing to verify licensing status? Whatever the case, the Pennsylvania Insurance Department has a search mechanism to help. Searches can be done either by license number, name or by city and state. To perform a more specific search choose a specific license type. The search results may take a few minutes depending on the search criteria entered. License information is current as of Sunday, July 08, 2018
If you are a consumer looking for a health insurance navigator, click here.
If you are looking for a navigator or assister for enrollment in the marketplace (exchange) , please click below under «License type.» Please note that according to Pennsylvania law, navigators and exchange assisters are registered with the state and not licensed. Navigators and exchange assisters may help consumers with the insurance marketplace but may not sell, solicit, or negotiate insurance contracts.