Business owners rely on a number of partners to help keep their businesses operational, profitable, and protected from potential harm. Commercial insurance provides necessary protection from liability and loss, but how do you know you can trust your insurance agent or broker to make the right recommendations for your company? Here are some tips for finding and evaluating an insurance agent.
Check the agent's experience
While it's possible to find the insurance coverage your business needs without working with an experienced professional, experience is key to finding the proper protection at the best price. Your agent must be able to make recommendations specific to your business' needs and risk exposure, and the only way an agent will gain the knowledge necessary to make reliable suggestions on this large and important purchase, is with years of researching, comparing, and making recommendations to other businesses like yours.
Ask agents for client referrals and seek out recommendations from your professional network
One great way to judge how seriously an insurance agent will treat your business is to find out what other companies have experienced. Ask your professional network and colleagues about their experiences with insurance agents and what recommendations they can make. When considering the source of the information, think about how your business compares to those making the recommendation. For example, is that business similar in asset size, industry, level of risk, etc.? Consider any special circumstances you must insure, and ask your acquaintances if their preferred commercial insurance agents take the time to understand the nuances of different businesses and industries. Be sure to ask about any bad experiences so you don't waste your time and money on agents who may be difficult to work with.
Any agent should be happy to provide you with a list of satisfied clients. If you don't know anyone you could ask independently, ask the potential insurance agent(s) you are vetting for a list of business clients you could contact.
Verify in-house services
As with every business partner, you need all the help you can get from your insurance agent. Make sure the agent you choose provides in-house services for your business:
Your agent should be able to pinpoint and list your business' loss exposure and risk. Only by understanding the specific risks inherent to your line of business will your agent be able to find coverage that protects you from those risks.
You should be able to rely on your agent to manage your claims. The better and more knowledgeable agents will guide you through the claims process step by step and will advocate for you with the insurer if you must file a claim.
Verify licenses and certifications
To sell to your business, your insurance agent must be licensed to sell insurance in your state. Of course, this is the bare minimum you should expect. In addition, look for these industry designations, which show that the agent has specialized expertise and training:
Certified Insurance Service Representatives (CISRs) demonstrate the highest level of insurance customer service, and they have earned educational credits in identifying risk and exposure.
Certified Insurance Counselors (CICs) have received specialized commercial insurance training and instruction in other important insurance topics.
Certified Risk Managers (CRMs) specialize in identifying risks, hazards, and exposure.
The importance of working with the right commercial insurance agent cannot be overstated since your insurance coverage protects the livelihood of your business. No business owners want to pay for insurance, that is, until they need it. Ensuring you have the right commercial insurance coverage for your business is critical should your business ever experience a claim. By putting in a little effort up front, you'll find an insurance partner who pays off for your business!