Insurance is nothing more than a commodity, right? So it doesn't matter where I get it, right?
Does the carrier I choose really make a difference? And what about these agents... do I really need one? It seems expensive and time consuming. I think I'll just find something cheap online and call it a day.
If so, it's not surprising. TV commercials, radio advertisements and online ads are constantly bombarding us with this simple message: all insurance is the same, so just buy the cheapest policy you can find.
That's dangerous. I'd even argue, it's hazardous to your financial health.
So I'm on a mission to shift control back to consumers. Specifically, the control to make an informed decision.
Not a decision that's absent of price, because let's face it, price is incredibly important. But rather a decision that considers all the factors, and then compares those to the price being charged.
In short, we're talking about value... what you get for what you pay. NOT just what you pay. Advertisements that talk only about the price you pay for insurance are not only insulting to your intelligence, they're doing a massive disservice to you and your needs.
The fact is, insurance is an important, and often very complicated purchase.
You’re buying a promise of protection that could potentially make or break your financial well-being.
How do you know that you’re making the right choices about coverage?
Are you sure you’re getting the best possible value for your dollar?
The options and decisions can be overwhelming and confusing.
If you watch TV at all these days, you’ll see countless advertisements for quick, easy and cheap insurance.
These advertisements promise significant savings on your insurance in exchange for just a few minutes of your time.
But it’s important to question what you may be giving up in return for ‘quick, easy and cheap.’ And how comprehensive is your coverage if it’s put together in just a few minutes?
With all the factors included in your purchase, like price, coverage, exclusions, bundles and more, it’s important to work with someone who is experienced and knowledgeable in the business.
Finding the right coverage for your needs often involves research, but you don’t need to conduct this research alone. Instead, you can opt to work with an independent insurance agent who will review many different insurance companies’ rates and coverage options to determine the best fit for you.
Below are 9 reasons why we believe it’s in your best interest to work with an independent insurance agent, rather than an online company or 1-800 number promising to provide the quickest and cheapest quote around:
1. Customer Service
If you have coverage questions, or worse, you experience a claim, would you rather reach an automated recording, or an actual person when you call your insurance provider?
More and more companies have switched to automated systems, often making it difficult and time consuming to reach the right person.
However, with an independent insurance agency, chances are good that you’ll speak with an actual person who will greet you, understand your coverages, and assist you with anything you may need.
In the unfortunate event of a claim, your agent can help you report the claim and explain what exactly your policy covers. If you’ve experienced a significant loss, such as water damage to your business, your insurance agent can help you there as well, connecting you to a reputable remediation company right away.
For example, we often have customers contact us immediately following a traffic accident asking what all they need to do. If you’ve ever been in this type of situation, it’s scary and upsetting, and the importance of speaking with someone who can help is critical.
By calling an independent insurance agency, you will speak with someone who is familiar with your coverage and can help talk you through the process. However, an online insurance company may require you to go through several automated prompts, or keep you holding far too long to assist with your questions.
An independent agent represents many different insurance companies that offer a wide variety of coverage options and price points. There’s no need or pressure for you to accept only a single option from one insurance agency, and there’s no need for you to spend time filling out many different online applications to get your own comparisons.
With connections and knowledge of the market, your independent insurance agency can often find a better value for your insurance dollar than you might find searching on your own.
For example, you’re looking for home and auto coverage. Some companies only provide one or the other leaving you to obtain multiple quotes from multiple companies. However, independent agencies have carriers who provide both coverages, and will even offer package or bundle deals for combined coverage.
Result: a comprehensive proposal for all of your insurance needs that’s tailored for you specifically. It might not be quick or cheap, but the right independent insurance consultant will make it easy for you, and it’ll be done right.
3. One Stop
Independent insurance agencies don’t just sell auto insurance. They often meet all of your insurance needs with the various companies they represent.
They can provide auto, home, renters, flood, business coverage, as well as life and health coverage. At no additional cost, all of your insurance needs can be covered by one agency, limiting the number of companies you deal with and helping you stay organized.
For example, if you own a small business, you can likely secure commercial insurance coverage from the same agency that insures your car and home. If you’re looking for health or life insurance, whether for your family or business, an independent agency can help you there as well.
Again, it might take more than 15 minutes, and it’s definitely not cheap… but you can rest assured that it’ll be done right.
4. Community involvement
Independent insurance agencies are local business owners, and as such, they place a strong emphasis on giving back to their communities.
From sponsoring fundraisers and supporting youth sports teams, donating to local charities, to volunteering and serving as board members of non-profit organizations, there are numerous ways that your local agency can give back to its community, which should help you feel confident in doing business with them.
For example, not only is Hill & Hamilton involved in community relations activities, but we have a large network of companies who love to get involved with us. Recently, Mary Rutan Hospital received a $7,500 grant from the Westfield Insurance Foundation thanks to the help of H&H.
5. Local presence
Not only is it a benefit to work with an agency that supports the local community, but their knowledge of the community can be extremely valuable as well. As local residents, many insurance agents are very familiar with the area and community, and they can use that knowledge to help you better reduce your risks and protect your assets.
For example, an insurance agency located in Ohio is going to be more capable of assisting you with winter weather tips and coverages, as opposed to an agency from Florida or Texas.
Insurance is a complicated subject. It’s an agent's business to understand it, and more importantly, to communicate it to you in such a way that you can make informed decisions.
Your independent insurance agent will work to ensure that you fully understand your coverage, from what is and is not included, to the deductibles and limits you should consider.
Unless you’re an insurance expert, you could very likely benefit from having someone who deals with this subject for a living advise you on a 50+ page contract (also known as the insurance policy).
After you purchase your policies, an independent agent’s work isn’t over – instead, she’s available year-round to help answer your questions, update your policy, and make coverage recommendations.
For example, if you’re researching what you need to do to get your will in place, you’d likely seek guidance from an attorney to ensure that the document is drawn up correctly. Why wouldn’t you seek the advice from a licensed insurance professional to ensure that your home, your auto or your business is properly protected?
In addition to having numerous years of experience in the industry, independent insurance agents have also worked with many different insurance companies and are knowledgeable about their individual strengths.
Although one insurance company may provide unmatched claims service, another may offer more comprehensive coverage, and a third might have highly competitive rates. Based on what’s most important to you, whether it’s the service you desire, the coverages you need, the premium you pay, or the right combination of all three, an independent agent will find the best match for you.
For instance, when you need medical attention, you contact your doctor, right? I’m not talking about when you have a cold and you head over to webMD, I’m talking about actually needing to talk with the expert.
The complexities of insurance are no different. You see your doctor to protect or improve your health. You should expect to see your insurance advisor to protect and preserve your wealth.
Independent agents frequently review your coverage. They’re there to help you through all the changes in your life, whether you’re going from renting an apartment to buying a home, starting a business, getting married, renovating your home, adding a teen driver to your auto policy, or looking to cover that retirement condo.
They’re also your advocate. When anything comes up pertaining to your coverage, like a claim, a billing concern or a mistake that needs to be corrected on your policy, your agent is your advocate by working with the insurance company to make sure it’s resolved to your satisfaction.
For example, you misplace your most recent insurance premium invoice and forget to pay it. The insurance company sends you a letter telling you that your policy will be canceled if not paid immediately.
If you purchased your policy online or through a 1-800 number, you’ll likely spend hours going through various automated messages in order to speak with someone to get this resolved.
Conversely, you call your independent insurance representative, you explain what happened and your agent takes it from there. Your agent advocates on your behalf to your insurance company that you’re always on-time when paying your bills, and that you have a great history with the agency. Not only does your agent get your policy taken care of, but they get the late fee waived because they know you personally and missing payments is not something you do.
9. They get praise
Reputation plays a crucial role in finding a company you can trust, and many independent insurance agencies take pride in the years, if not decades, they have spent serving their clients and local communities.
Not only can an agency’s many years of service speak to its well-established reputation in the community, but it can also help you feel confident about what to expect when dealing with the people
At H&H, we care deeply about our clients. To us, it’s about people, not policies. People have assets to protect. People have loved ones they care for and employees who depend on them. People have dreams to pursue. We believe it’s our responsibility to safeguard the people we care about, and we love when clients tell us how we’re doing. Take a look at just a few of the testimonials we've received.
Choosing the right insurance company is incredibly important, but even more important is selecting the best insurance agency to service your needs.
Do you want fast, cheap and easy?
Or do you want this complex decision to be guided by licensed insurance advisors that have your best interest in mind?
There’s no right or wrong answer here, only the answer that’s right for you.
You’ve probably realized by now, we're pretty big believers in doing what’s best for our clients. After all, H&H has been obsessively protecting and caring for its clients since 1920. We believe that people are more important than policies, and that’s how we think our clients should be treated. We care deeply about our clients, and about protecting everything that’s important to them.
If this sounds like your cup of tea, we’d love to connect with you.
About the author
Matthew T. Simon, CIC, CPCU
Since 2006, Matt has been a Licensed Insurance Advisor with Hill & Hamilton Insurance, an industry leading, independent insurance agency headquartered in Ohio. Prior to joining the team at H&H, he worked as an Underwriter with a regional insurance company located in Columbus, Ohio.
Matt is a Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC) and a Chartered Property & Casualty Underwriter (CPCU), having successfully completed the rigorous coursework and exams to earn these prestigious designations.
He’s the Vice President at H&H, serves on the Board of Directors for the Ohio Insurance Agents Association of Ohio and the Associated Risk Managers of Ohio. In 2013, Matt was awarded and recognized as the National Young Insurance Agent of the Year.