A relationship with an insurance agent is a lot like a romance. There’s the courtship when you first meet and your agent sweeps you off your feet. Promises of excellent, undivided customer service and whispers of sweet nothings sure to make your wallet happy can trigger a bout of nervous and excited butterflies in your stomach.
Sadly, sometimes the butterflies fade. You insurance agent might lose interest in you. His head may be turned by another client who requires less work or purchases a bigger policy, and your relationship may fizzle out. In short, it’s common that over time, an insurance agent is not all that into you.
It’s not you… it’s your agent
In most instances, a hot relationship with your insurance agent turns cold because his or her business grows unexpectedly — especially if she is a good agent or does a lot of marketing. All that extra work makes it difficult to provide the same level of service to all her current clients along with the new ones.
Insurance agents may also become complacent and take a customer (even a longstanding one or one who’s never filed a claim) for granted. That’s when something like a change in coverage you phoned about slips through the cracks or messages aren’t returned, says Liran Hirschkorn, founder of ChooseTerm.com and an independent insurance agent in the greater New York City area.
As with any relationship, if your agent starts to send mixed signals about where you stand, it’s time to assess if you should break up. Hirschkorn says the first rule of thumb when assessing your relationship with your insurance agent is listen to your gut. “An insurance agent should be helpful, knowledgeable and always put the client interest first, no matter how long you’ve been doing business together or how much business you bring to the agency. If your instinct says you’re receiving anything less than 100 percent attention and service, run in the other direction,” he says.
Some other clues it’s time to make a change:
You feel pressured. You should never feel as though decisions about changes to your coverage, buying new coverage or other insurance-related issues need to be made under the gun. “If your agent ever puts you on the spot or strong-arms you, it’s time to fire that agent,” says Hirschkorn. While an insurance agent should function as your partner, guiding and educating you about different products and options, he shouldn’t make you feel like you have to rush to purchase or change coverage. “Bottom line: An agent should never pressure you,” says Hirschkorn.
The phone goes silent. “Prompt and attentive customer service is very important in the agent/client relationship,” says Hirschkorn. And it should never be compromised or falter. Your messages should always be addressed in a timely fashion, and you should even be able to get your agent on the phone from time to time, says Hirschkorn. However, if after you’ve purchased a policy your agent forgets how to dial or answer a phone, it’s definitely time to shop for a new agent.
Your rates keep rising. If your annual premiums continue to inch upward without an explanation from your agent or an offer to review coverage and discounts to manage rates, it’s time to end things, says Ronny C. Jetmore, principal of Jetmore Insurance Group in Lusby, Maryland.
Your agent won’t offer alternatives. For the most part, insurance agents aren’t stingy. Jetmore says an agent who values his clients isn’t afraid to refer you to another agent or company if his product inventory cannot meet your insurance needs — for instance, insuring a particular piece of artwork, jewelry, boat, ATV or classic car.
Your agent won’t — or can’t — think outside the box. In general, stones can be turned over and companies can be reasoned with on various items. But Jetmore says sometimes a complacent agent (or one who doesn’t value her clients) simply does not want to work that hard. That’s an agent you should break up with.
But how should one go about ending things? Like any break up, a little bit of planning can ensure a smoother transition.
Get a new plan in place. A lapse in insurance coverage can be costly in the unfortunate event of a fire, theft or other peril. Plus, if you have a car loan or mortgage, the bank will likely demand you maintain adequate and consistent coverage to protect its investment. That’s why you should shop around to compare quotes and secure a new policy before canceling an old one (if that’s your intent). Paying for a day or two of double coverage is better than being hit with exorbitant fees and rates hikes resulting from a lapse in coverage.
Spell it out. Don’t slip quietly from the relationship without airing your feelings. You agent may not know you felt neglected or realize she was taking a lackadaisical approach. Discussing your feelings may not result in a change. However, it may trigger a change in the agent who tries to woo you back with a lower rate, untapped discount or better policy.
Write it down. Confirm your breakup via written word (no, not a text). Ask you agent for a confirmation that you’ve ended things to ensure you receive any refunds or credits due.
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