Why Use an Independent Insurance Agency?

by Joe Harrington, Markham Priest Insurance
For some people it does not matter where they buy their insurance. That decision could be costing them money, service and proper protection. Buying insurance is not like buying gasoline at a gas station. It is an important financial decision in protecting those things that are important to you such as your family, home, autos and business.
Independent agencies differ greatly from direct insurance carriers or the internet based insurance companies. In brief, here are the three ways to buy insurance:
Captive Agents: Insurance agents that sell you the insurance policy of one (1) direct carrier.
Internet Based Agents: Agents who potentially represent multiple insurance carriers, but are unable to provide the best customer service and personal knowledge to properly protect you with your changing needs.
Independent Insurance Agents: Agents who represent an average of six – eight insurance carriers. Independent agents are able to research these carriers to find you the best combination of price, coverage and services to properly protect your assets.
Your Independent Insurance Agent:

  • Is a licensed professional with strong customer and community ties
  • Provides excellent customer service and competitive premiums because your agent can access coverage from multiple insurance carriers
  • Because an independent agency represents multiple carriers, the agent can provide flexibility as your insurance needs change. If your insurance needs no longer match your present insurance carrier, the independent agent can easily transition you to another carrier
  • Assists you when you have a claim
  • Is your consultant, working with you to determine your proper insurance needs
  • Saves you premium by looking at the best combination of price, coverage and service
  • Provides full service by offering a full range of insurance products such as home, renters, condo, auto, business, life and health
  • Knows you by name and not by a policy number. An independent agent treats you like a person

Survey reports higher customer service satisfaction with local agencies than with call centers

The J.D. Power and Associates 2008 Insurance Customer Contact Study recently surveyed nearly 12,000 home and auto insurance customers to assess satisfaction. Survey participants had interacted with their current insurer within the past 12 months, either through an agency, call center or Web site. The results show that insurance customers who interact with a local agency tend to be more satisfied than customers who interact with their insurer’s call center. According to the study, “…routine service interaction is the most important element driving customer satisfaction, accounting for 38 percent of overall customer satisfaction with their insurer.”
Regardless of which method customers use, quick resolution through a single channel is an important element of satisfaction:

“Having a streamlined contact process is most ideal for customers, and in particular, those interacting with their insurer’s call center often have higher expectations than those interacting with an agency,” said Bowler. “For instance, call center customers are most satisfied when their issues are resolved the same day they contact their insurer, while agencies can take slightly longer before customers become less satisfied. Similarly, customers expect an agent to retrieve their information in two minutes or less, while call center representatives have only one minute before satisfaction declines drastically.”

The survey also reports that one-fourth of a customer’s overall impression of their agent, agency staff, or call center representative is driven by their perception of the service channel’s courtesy and friendliness.