Use this four-question litmus test to decide whether you're settling for so-so service.
The right insurance agent can mean the difference between overpaying on coverage or getting a great deal, having the right protection or not, and getting a tough claim paid or being stonewalled by an insurance company. Are you getting full value from your agent? Ask yourself these four key questions to decide whether you need to look elsewhere:
1. Do you get insurance jargon or plain English? Like veterinary science, insurance has its own lingo. Insist that the agent explain any insurance in clear terms that can't be misunderstood.
2. Can you see a sample copy of the policy before buying? Ask your agent to give you an apples-to-apples comparison of competing insurance quotes, so you know what you're buying. If the agent or prospective insurer balks, think about exploring other options.
3. How many insurers does the agent represent? The more the better, because he or she won't be tempted to channel your business to just one insurer. And the more competition for your business, the better terms you can get on both coverage and price.
4. Does your agent meet with you at least annually to review your insurance needs? Of course, this one takes an investment on your part, too. Treat your insurance agent as a fellow professional, an insider in your practice. Make sure you sit down at least once each year to discuss the range of your insurance needs, including coverage on your office space, equipment, your employee benefits, retirement, car insurance, and so on, not just your liability coverage.
Kevin Quinley is an insurance executive and business writer from Fairfax, Va.