What to Expect From Your Insurance Agent
August 8, 2022
In these days of reliance on data-driven algorithms, a personal relationship for insurance coverage may seem archaic, but discerning clients with diverse coverage needs will always benefit from an informed and proactive insurance. We are occasionally asked about clients’ expectations regarding their broker-agent relationship, and after nearly 25 years dedicated to the personal lines insurance business, we have more than a few ideas.
This Chartwell Bulletin will discuss the role of an insurance agent in today’s world.
Knowing the Business
Few clients are experts in coverage provisions and restrictions, and even less are experienced with how different companies handle these crucial details. Your insurance agent should be a competent, informed technician, comfortable with discussing and addressing any aspect of your exposures.
When accidents and emergencies happen, your insurance agent should be your first point of contact. This isn’t to say that the agents never sleep, but a reliable agency should not just be on-hand during regular business hours but have an emergency service for the “off” hours as well. A call to Chartwell at 312-645-1200 will be answered 24/7.
Why notify your agent before the insurance company? Because as soon as the insurer is notified a claim file is opened, and that claim generally becomes part of your permanent record, even if the loss falls within the deductible and you pay it all yourself. A discussion with your agent will help determine whether to claim, or not to claim.
The only exception to this agent-first rule, is when you are in an accident after-hours that requires roadside assistance. After emergency services have been called to the scene, your insurance company can assist you in ordering a tow and alternate transportation faster than an agent can – insurance companies have the infrastructure in place to assist you post-haste, and the priority in a late night auto accident is always to relocate you and your vehicle to safety.
During business hours, regardless of the accident, we hope that you will call us first except for basic roadside assistance issues like flat tires and battery jumps.
A good insurance agent is never just focusing on the present. As your lifestyle evolves, your suite of insurance coverages should evolve as well, which means working closely with your agent to help make sure this happens by minimizing exposure to changing risks and suggesting cost-benefit coverage analyses.
Over the last few years, we’ve been reminded with increasing frequency of the importance of being nimble and prepared to accommodate sudden changes of residence and exposure as our clients move around the country and across the globe.
When Chartwell was founded, phrases like “global warming” and “wildfires” were barely part of the insurance lexicon; now they are paramount, resulting in dramatic alterations in the risk profiles of previously mild locations.
A proactive and informed agent should be prepared to discuss not only any homes their clients are thinking of purchasing, but about the homes they already own that may be situated in increasingly problematic areas.
A reliable agent will also run the address of a prospective purchase against past claim history and provide clients with limited insight into a building’s history; however, privacy laws prevent full disclosure to anyone but the property owner. Sellers are sometimes required to mention losses but may be less than forthcoming about the details, as their goal is, after all, to sell. What the agent can do is confirm whether the information the seller is providing matches the information on the insurance reports and advise the prospective buyer to reconsider if there are any discrepancies.
A client may fall in love with an historic house in an idyllic wooded setting miles from anywhere or anyone; a potential insurer will instead see an old house with outdated wiring, badly in need of costly (and hazardous) renovations, far from emergency fire services, and surrounded by highly combustible vegetation in a region now plagued with drought. Bringing in an agent from the beginning of the process can prevent disappointment and frustration when insurance rates are higher than expected or coverage is unavailable.
Relationships – Integration is Key
A close client-agent relationship has always been important, and a reliable agent should prioritize this over all else. At Chartwell, we provide our clients a review of their policies each year; this keeps us on top of lifestyle changes, real estate activities, additional vehicles, fine arts acquisitions, and family and driver changes.
Because we see so many individual programs, we’re able to look at the broader picture of how coverage and premiums are changing across our accounts and the country as a whole. When we must present rising premiums, we’re able to suggest alternative options with more competitive pricing. If none are readily available, we switch focus to risk mitigation that may result in credit generation, or present options for increased deductibles that will lessen the impact of premium raises.
An experienced agent should also foster strong relationships with the carriers in their markets. An agent who knows their carriers and their representatives is better able to dig into reasons behind rate and coverage changes. A good agent aims to understand better the factors and nuances that drive insurance company decisions.
Many clients employ trusted financial advisors, family attorneys, accountants, and collections manager (such as art advisors) who have a wealth of information which relates to their personal insurance. An insurance agent should foster relationships with these individuals for additional insight into trusts, LLCs, assets, and liability exposures (including workers compensation).
Multi-generational family members should be brought into the fold as well to help ease transitions and facilitate education. From starting out with a rental apartment all the way to the empty-nester phase, an agent’s acumen and insight benefits every stage of life. Every client relationship is unique, and no one should hesitate to offer their thoughts on how the dynamic could be better tailored to suit their needs and routines.
At Chartwell, we take pride in building these relationships, which invariably work to our clients' benefit. The result is what we like to think of as a holistic approach to managing risks.
Chartwell Bulletins are produced by Chartwell Insurance Services an independent insurance broker specializing in the personal asset protection of successful individuals. Chartwell Bulletins address issues of general interest and since coverages vary by company and by state should not be taken as an interpretation of a particular policy or advice on any individual situation.
A representative of Chartwell Insurance Services will be pleased to discuss your personal insurance program including family protection coverages.
Contact us at 312-645-1200, email your Chartwell representative or firstname.lastname@example.org