How do you choose an agent? The best way to find someone you’re comfortable with is to talk to several over the phone or visit their offices.
Competent insurance agents should be able to answer your questions, help you assess what coverages you need and offer you insurance products to meet those needs. Ask them also how they deal with claims. Then, decide whether the agencies you contacted are likely to provide you with prompt, quality service on an ongoing basis.
Good agents can consult with you not only about the insurance you may need but also about ways to reduce the likelihood of theft, injuries to visitors and workers, and other business-related losses.
Look for an agent who knows about your type of business. Ask friends and acquaintances in the same kind of business about the agent they use. You can contact your business trade associations to see if they sponsor an insurance program designed specifically for your business or if they can provide a list of insurers who specialize in your field. The agent who handles your personal business—your auto and homeowners insurance—may be able to recommend an agent or broker to handle your business needs.
There are two kinds of insurance agents: those who represent only one insurance company and those who represent more than one. A “captive agent” represents only one company. An “independent agent” represents several companies.
An agent is a person who solicits, negotiates and implements contracts of insurance on behalf of an insurer, subject to the terms of the agency contract with the insurer and to the laws of your state. You may also obtain insurance with the help of a broker, although brokers generally work with larger entities. Traditionally, a broker has represented the policyholder. Now, the distinction between an agent and broker is blurring. The broker may act as an agent of the insurer for certain purposes such as delivery of the policy or collection of the premium. In the insurance industry, both agents and brokers may be known as “producers.”
As important as anything else in finding the right agent is the level of professional confidence and personal comfort you feel with that person. One source of help is the Internet, which has opened up new avenues for purchasing small business insurance. Some insurance companies give customers the option of getting quotes online. In addition, there are insurance hubs that offer quotes from several insurers. These online services generally put the client in touch with an agent.
WORKING WITH YOUR AGENT
Your insurance professional can provide invaluable advice. Ask your agent what you can do to reduce risks like fire or work-related accidents and about the procedures that should be in place to minimize losses in case your business is hit with a major disaster. To ensure that you have the right coverages and the appropriate amount of insurance, you need to keep your insurance professional informed about any major changes in your business on an ongoing basis. This includes major purchases as well as changes to your building, the nature of your operation and in the number of employees.
WHO REGULATES INSURANCE?Insurance is regulated by the individual states. Many states have publications and information on their Web sites to assist small businesses with understanding and finding insurance, as well as a great deal of other consumer insurance information. Most states have telephone helplines so that you can call and ask questions about insurance.
To speak with an Independent Insurance Agent, call Salzberg Insurance today at (757) 583-1828.
Check out the other parts of this series: