But you may have recently moved to the area or you’ve been purchasing insurance through anonymous representatives on the other end of toll-free numbers.
If that’s the case, I encourage everyone to have a trusted local agent for many reasons.
If you are looking for an agent, consider “interviewing” them.
After all, in a very real way, they are applying for a job to work for you. Anyone can sell you a policy. But not everyone is a perfect fit.
Here are five steps for interviewing a new agent:
1. Make sure you like the agent.
Personality matters. Not everyone “clicks” with everyone, right?
It’s important that you feel safe discussing your personal financial situation with your agent. If you don’t... if you feel “awkward” with your agent... you won’t feel comfortable giving them the information they need to properly advise you.
2. Make sure they listen and ask good questions.
Almost everyone hears. But not everyone listens well.
Listening well is a skill and can take years to perfect. A good agent can listen for the “between the lines” stuff and ask the right questions to get at real insurance needs. You need a pro at listening.
3. Make sure they work with reputable companies.
Ask the agent if they are an independent agent representing multiple companies, or if they are a captive agent, representing only one company.
Neither is necessarily better than the other. I used to be a captive agent; now I’m an independent agent.
The key is to make sure the companies they represent are sound and trustworthy. Make sure the agent is proud to represent them.
4. Make sure you ask about credentials and associations.
They say, “you are the friends you keep.” Ask the agent who they (professionally) hang out with.
What is their experience? Do their peers recognize them as trustworthy?
What type of continuing education do they attend (it’s a state of California requirement) and why? What insurance topics interest them, and why?
Finally, do they regularly associate with other agents who can serve as a resource for the difficult insurance questions that require peer consultation? A good agent knows they need a team.
5. Make sure you ask the hard questions.
A good agent will be happy to answer questions. A great agent looks forward to the really tough questions.
Let your imagination run wild.
What if your dog gets loose in the car, distracts you and the car runs into your neighbor’s garage?
Who pays? Is it your homeowners? Is it theirs? Is it your auto insurance? Or is the dog liable, and his pet insurance has to cover it? (OK, that last one was a joke.)
The best agents will never get tired of good questions. They won’t get annoyed.
If they don’t have the immediate answer, they’ll follow up with you later after they find out.
My advice: Stay with a good agent. Don’t let a little price difference once in a while send you on an annual hunt for the “best price.”
But if you don’t have an agent that meets these five criteria, get one.
As always, if you have questions, I’m available by phone or email. Thanks for reading my blog.